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« Odpowiedź #255 dnia: Luty 11, 2022, 07:42 »
13) Ile jeszcze wariantów SARS-CoV-2? Wirusolog: Poproszę szklaną kulę, będziemy wróżyć
Paweł Kmiecik 10 lutego (17:31)

"Jestem raczej realistą" - powiedział w rozmowie z portalem "Twoje Zdrowie" prof. Tomasz Wąsik, kierownik katedry Mikrobiologii i Wirusologii ze Śląskiego Uniwersytetu Medycznego w Katowicach, w odniesieniu do słów ministra zdrowia Adama Niedzielskiego, który w środę powiedział, że jest optymistą, jeśli chodzi o pandemię koronawirusa. Wirusolog zaznaczył, że ryzyko zakażenia tuż po szczepionce nie powoduje zagrożenia większego niż to, jakim jest brak szczepienia w ogóle. Prof. Wąsik odniósł się również do ogłoszonego niespełna miesiąc temu odkrycia genu zwiększającego ciężki przebieg Covid-19. "Ja bym był bardzo ostrożny z wysnuwaniem tak daleko idących wniosków z jednego badania" - stwierdził naukowiec. Powiedział również, co zaskoczyło go w pandemii koronawirusa.


Prof. Tomasz Wąsik/Śląski Uniwersytet Medyczny /Materiały prasowe

Paweł Kmiecik, RMF24: Czy pan profesor jest optymistą?

Prof. Tomasz Wąsik: Jestem raczej realistą. Trzeba zdawać sobie sprawę, w jakiej sytuacji się znajdujemy.

A w jakiej sytuacji się znajdujemy?

Mamy bardzo dużo zgonów. Niestety przodujemy w Europie razem z Czechami, ze Słowacją, jesteśmy również w czołówce, światowej niestety, zgonów non-Covid, czyli zgonów nadmiarowych, wywoływanych obciążeniem opieki zdrowotnej. Są to niewykonane na czas diagnostyki, odłożone operacje. Trudno być optymistą.

Zapytałem o optymizm, bo wspomniał o nim minister zdrowia Adam Niedzielski. Mówił, że zawsze był pesymistą, a tym razem jest optymistą. Powiedział nawet, że wygląda to na początek końca pandemii.

Znowu polityka miesza się z nauką. Już mieliśmy jednego pana, który odwołał nam pandemię - powiedział, że tego wirusa już nie ma, starsze osoby mogą iść na wybory. Co skutkowało za 4 tygodnie znacznym wzrostem zgonów. No i mamy teraz drugiego polityka, który 2 tygodnie temu jeszcze mówił, że sytuacja jest poważna, że wymagane jest wprowadzenie jak najszybciej nowych obostrzeń, ustawy Hoca, po czym zniknął na dwa tygodnie. Wychodzi po 2 tygodniach i odwołuje nam pandemię przy prawie 50 tysiącach nowych przypadków i przy 300-400 zgonach dziennie.

Ja, jako wirusolog, racjonalnego naukowego podłoża takiej decyzji nie widzę i według mnie jest to decyzja czysto polityczna. Polityka prowadzona do tej pory przez Ministerstwo Zdrowia była polityką dostawiania łóżek, a poza tym nic nierobienia. Te łagodne restrykcje, które myśmy mieli, były i są nieprzestrzegane. Więc to, co proponuje Pan minister, absolutnie nic nie zmienia.

Ale może wtedy była sytuacja o tyle inna, że było przed wyborami, to był premier, a teraz głos zabrał minister zdrowia, który był wcześniej prezesem NFZ. Inne kraje typu Szwecja, Norwegia Dania również luzują obostrzenia. Może jednak są powody do optymizmu?

Tak, ale proszę wziąć pod uwagę, że właśnie Dania, Szwecja, Hiszpania, czy Portugalia mają wyszczepione 80-90 proc. populacji. W tych krajach na 1 milion osób z powodu Covid-19 umierają 1-2 osoby. W Polsce przy wyszczepieniu troszkę ponad 50 proc. umiera na koronawirusa 9 osób na milion. To są rzetelne dane naukowe. U nas wstrzymałbym się z wycofywaniem obostrzeń, ale wydaje mi się, że mamy do czynienia z podejściem czysto darwinowskim "survival of the fittest" - zostaliśmy zostawieni sami, a kto przeżyje wolnym będzie.

Co Pana zdaniem będzie dalej z pandemią? Czy szczyt piątej fali jest przed nami, za nami czy jesteśmy w jego trakcie?

Wydaje się, że jesteśmy w trakcie szczytu. Znowu chciałbym podkreślić, że mamy duży odsetek testów pozytywnych w oficjalnych danych. Te dane, które podaje ministerstwo, jako liczba przypadków dziennych, są z tego względu absolutnie niewiarygodne, nie oddają rzeczywistej sytuacji. Trzeba by je przemnożyć przez 8 albo 10, byśmy mieli prawdziwy obraz. Przy tej zakaźności Omikronu, praktycznie każdy z nas będzie miał z nim kontakt.

Czy Omikron jest łagodniejszy w przebiegu?

Nie wydaje mi się choć tak sugerują dane z RPA, w starszych społeczeństwach, obciążonych chorobami cywilizacyjnymi takiej zależności nie ma. Proszę zauważyć, że od pediatrów mamy alarmujące wiadomości, iż dzieci dosyć ciężko przechodzą zakażenia tym wariantem. Natomiast chciałbym z całą stanowczością zaznaczyć, że osoby, które przyjęły pełną dawkę - dwie dawki szczepionki RNA, bądź pojedynczą Johnsonem - przed ciężkim przebiegiem Omikrona i śmiercią są chronione w około 40 proc. Z kolei osoby, które przyjęły dawkę przypominającą, są chronione w 90 procentach. Trzecia dawka, przypominająca, ma sens i mimo że już jest dosyć późno, to jeżeli ktoś z państwa zastanawia się teraz, czy przyjąć tę dawkę, czy nie, to bardzo namawiam, żeby trzecią dawkę przypominającą przyjąć.

Czy jest duże ryzyko zakażenia się po szczepionce?

Tego nie można wykluczyć, ale takie ryzyko zawsze było, bo szczepiliśmy się w trakcie pandemii. Nikt z nas nie miał gwarancji, gdy się szczepił, że po 2-3 dniach po szczepieniu nie będzie zainfekowany. Ktoś na nas kichnie, odporność zostanie przełamana i będziemy chorzy. W tym układzie nie ma jednak ryzyka, że ciężkość choroby będzie większa. Jeżeli tak byśmy rozumowali, to w ogóle musielibyśmy się nie szczepić albo po szczepieniu przez 3 tygodnie być w całkowitej izolacji. A to jest absolutnie niemożliwe.

To ważne uspokojenie, że w przypadku zakażenia po szczepieniu nie będziemy ciężej przechodzić koronawirusa.

Na 99,9 proc. nie będzie to powodowało cięższego przebiegu. Gdy po szczepieniu, w trakcie uczenia się układu immunologicznego, zakazimy się, po prostu układ immunologiczny będzie musiał sobie dać z tym radę. Cały czas jesteśmy bombardowani, szczególnie w okresie jesienno-zimowym, bardzo wielką liczbą różnych wirusów i bakterii wywołujących zakażenia układu oddechowego i nasz układ immunologiczny w większości przypadków doskonale daje sobie z tym radę.

Oczywiście możliwe jest, że u niektórych osób dojdzie do ciężkiego przebiegu choroby i bardzo niebezpiecznych powikłań mimo przyjęcia szczepionki, bo nie jesteśmy wszyscy tacy sami i nigdy szczepionki nie dają 100 proc. gwarancji, ale to dotyczy ułamka promila osób. A zagrożenie ciężkim przebiegiem i zgonem z powodu Covid-19, średnio w Europie wynosi 2,5 - 3 proc., czyli na 100 zakażonych osób 3 umierają.

Panie profesorze, były warianty Alfa, Beta, Delta, teraz Omikron. Ile Pana zdaniem w tej pandemii czeka nas jeszcze wariantów koronawirusa?

Poproszę o jakąś szklaną kulę, będziemy wróżyć.

Nie da się tego stwierdzić naukowo?

Co wiemy o koronawirusach? Koronawirusy, w tym Sars-Cov-2, to wirusy, które są dosyć zmienne. Nie aż tak zmienne jak chociażby wirus grypy, ale są zmienne. Co jakiś czas pojawiają się mutacje, które są selekcjonowane w naszych organizmach, które są lepiej przystosowane.

Będziemy z tym mieli do czynienia biorąc pod uwagę, że wiele rejonów jest praktycznie niewyszczepionych - Ameryka Południowa, Afryka, Europa, chociażby Rumunia, Bułgaria, Chorwacja i Polska. Podatne populacje stanowią rezerwuar dla tego wirusa, a czym więcej osób jest zakażonych, tym u większej liczby osób toczy się cykl replikacji wirusa. Tam prawdopodobieństwo wygenerowania nowych wariantów jest większe. To jest proces, z którym będziemy mieli do czynienia stale, bo wszystkie wirusy mutują, zmieniają się. Jest zgoda między wirusologami a epidemiologami, że ten koronawirus nas nie opuści i nie zniknie, tak jak Sars-Cov-1, ze względu na swoje właściwości, na zakaźność, na cykl replikacyjny.

Najprawdopodobniej przejdzie z wirusa pandemicznego w wirus endemiczny. Będziemy na niego w mniejszej liczbie chorowali, tak jak chorujemy na przeziębienie. Najprawdopodobniej dojdzie do tego, że - tak jak przeciwko grypie - osoby, które dbają o swoje zdrowie, będą się musiały szczepić co rok, co 2 lata. Mogę jedynie ekstrapolować z analiz historycznych, że pandemie podobnych wirusów trwają zazwyczaj 3-4 lata. Później tworzy się pewna równowaga między populacją gospodarzy, a wirusa i mamy do czynienia z wirusami endemicznymi. Najprawdopodobniej tak będzie.

W czarnym scenariuszu, czego ja się najbardziej obawiam, choć prawdopodobieństwo tego jest bardzo małe, jest to, że powstanie wariant, który oprócz dużej zakaźności będzie wariantem bardzo zjadliwym. Wtedy się zrobi niebezpiecznie.

Panie profesorze, 13 stycznia otrzymaliśmy informację od ministra zdrowia, że odkryto gen, który zwiększa zagrożenie zakażenia koronawirusem. Czy Pan wie co to za gen, czy to Pana zdaniem mogło i może coś poważnie zmienić w tematyce traktowania koronawirusa?

Chodzi tutaj o wariant genetyczny związany z chromosomem 3, który według tego badania występuje w populacji Polski z częstością 14 procent. Według badaczy "jest on mocnym numerem 4 na liście czynników ryzyka ciężkiego przebiegu COVID-19". Ja bym był bardzo ostrożny z wysnuwaniem tak daleko idących wniosków z jednego badania. Zakażenie Sars-CoV-2 jest procesem tak złożonym i wieloczynnikowym, że trudno przypuszczać, iż jeden z nich samoistnie warunkuje dynamikę procesu chorobowego. To nie jest tak, że osoby, które ten gen noszą, mają o 5 czy 10 proc. mniejsze czy większe szanse ciężkiego przebiegu choroby.

Owszem, w wielu chorobach wyłapujemy pewne geny, markery, które mogą nam sugerować, że w zestawieniu będą powodowały efekt makroskopowy, ale nie działają one w izolacji. Do tego dochodzi jeszcze cała pula innych czynników współistniejących. Chciałbym jednakże podkreślić, że jest to cenne odkrycie, bo dowiedzieliśmy się czegoś nowego o interakcji wirus - człowiek, ale to nie jest czynnik działający w stylu: jeżeli masz ten gen, to masz przechlapane, mówiąc kolokwialnie.

To nie jest tak, że jeśli ktoś ma np. blond włosy, to jest prawdopodobne, że ma ten gen, a więc musi bardziej uważać?

Nie, tak prostej zależności nie ma, ale czynnik ten może być jednym z wielu czynników predykcyjnych ciężkiego przebiegu choroby. Ostatnio pojawił się artykuł próbujący powiązać grupy krwi z przebiegiem Covid-19, ale gdy badanie poddane zostało analizie wieloczynnikowej, okazało się, że grupa krwi nie koreluje z ciężkością choroby.

Czy Pana, jako wirusologa, coś zaskoczyło w trakcie pandemii? Czy coś Pan przewidywał, że nastąpi albo nie nastąpi, a było inaczej?

Zaskoczyło mnie to, że Sars-CoV-2 ma niesamowitą łatwość dostosowywania się do receptorów na naszych komórkach zwiększając swoją transmisyjność. Wariant z Wuhan przez warianty Alfa, Delta do Omikronu w bardzo szybkim czasie doszedł do wirusów niesamowicie zakaźnych.

I jeszcze jeden czynnik: wirus zakażając wchodzi w grę z naszymi mechanizmami komórkowymi i u niektórych osób wywołuje zakażenie, które przebiega subklinicznie - zakażona osoba nawet nie odczuwa tego, że jest zakażona, a staje się super-roznosicielem. I tu jest chyba główna różnica między Sars-CoV z 2002 roku a Sars-CoV-2, która działa na naszą niekorzyść. Sars-CoV-1 wywoływał praktycznie u wszystkich bardzo ciężki przebieg choroby o dużej śmiertelności wynoszącej 9 procent. Objawy były bardzo silne i pojawiały się szybko, więc chory kładł się do łóżka i nie roznosił wirusa. Przy SARS-CoV-2 bardzo niekorzystny z naszego punktu widzenia i bardzo korzystny z punktu widzenia wirusa jest długi okres utajenia, czyli czas od zakażenia do pierwszych objawów. Duży odsetek zakażeń jest z objawami skąpymi bądź bez objawów, co sprzyja rozprzestrzenianiu wirusa. A przy naszym, jak określa to Pan Prezydent, genie oporu, choć ja go nazywam genem głupoty, nie nosimy maseczek, nie przestrzegamy dystansu, nie szczepimy się, uważamy, że restrykcje nie są dla nas - no i mamy to, co mamy.

Dziękuję za rozmowę.

https://twojezdrowie.rmf24.pl/aktualnosci/news-ile-jeszcze-wariantow-sars-cov-2-wirusolog-poprosze-szklana-,nId,5824172#crp_state=1

14) Nearly three-quarters of Americans have some Covid immunity, experts say
Guardian staff and agencies Thu 17 Feb 2022 18.23 GMT

Omicron infections and vaccinations mean future surges likely to be less severe but 80 million Americans still totally unprotected


‘We have changed,’ said Professor Ali Mokdad. ‘We have been exposed to this virus and we know how to deal with it.’ Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Almost three-quarters of Americans are now estimated to have some level of immunity to the Omicron Covid variant that created havoc after it emerged late last year just as people hoped the pandemic was finally waning.

The subsequent Omicron wave that assaulted the US this winter has, however, bolstered its defenses, leaving enough protection against the coronavirus that future surges will probably require much less – if any – dramatic disruption to society, experts reckon.

Millions of individual Americans’ immune systems now recognize the virus and are primed to fight it off if they encounter Omicron, or even another variant.

About half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, there have been nearly 80m confirmed infections overall and many more infections have never been reported.

One influential model uses those factors and others to estimate that 73% of Americans are, for now, enjoying protection from Omicron, the dominant variant, and that could rise to 80% by mid-March, experts say.

This will prevent or shorten new illnesses in protected people and reduce the amount of virus circulating overall, probably tamping down new waves. Hospitals will get a break from overwhelmed ICUs, experts agree.

“We have changed,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We have been exposed to this virus and we know how to deal with it.”

The coronavirus – the current variant or future ones that are sure to pop up – remains a dangerous germ. It is still infecting more than 130,000 Americans and killing more than 2,000 every day. Tens of millions of people remain vulnerable.

And there will be future outbreaks. The notion of a “herd immunity” that could stop the virus has slipped away under the harsh reality of new variants, waning immunity and the rejection of vaccination by some Americans.

But the White House coronavirus team on Wednesday said that the nation was moving closer to the point that Covid-19 is no longer a “constant crisis”, as infections drop steeply.

And knowledge is building now that the coronavirus is no longer new. Two years ago it arrived in a nation where nobody’s immune system had seen it before. The entire population – 330 million people – were immunologically naive, that is, susceptible to infection.

“I am optimistic even if we have a surge in summer, cases will go up, but hospitalizations and deaths will not,” said Mokdad, who works on the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, which calculated the 73% figure for the Associated Press.

With varying degrees of relief and caution, many Americans are starting to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles.

Sarah Rixen, 41, of Bismarck, North Dakota, started singing again with a civic chorus after taking a year off. Now, with Omicron winding down, she said she feels more confident than at any time since the crisis began.

“But I am still a little leery that there could be another variant around the corner,” said Rixen, noting that her family and most of her relatives are fully vaccinated. “I am still going to wear a mask.”

As mask mandates ease, workers return to offices and flights fill up, experts are trying to understand whether this return to normal can last, or if another setback is looming.

To address that, researchers are using health data from other countries such as Britain, Denmark, South Africa and Qatar to project what could be in store.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health estimate that about three out of four people in the US will have been infected by Omicron by the end of the surge.

“We know it’s a huge proportion of the population,” said Shaun Truelove, an epidemiologist and disease modeler at Johns Hopkins. “This varies a lot by location, and in some areas we expect the number infected to be closer to one in two.”

That means different regions or groups of people have different level of protection – and risk. In Virginia, disease modelers are thinking about their population in terms of groups with different levels of immunity.

They estimate about 45% of Virginians have the highest level of immunity through boosted vaccination or through vaccination plus a recent infection with Omicron.

Another 47% have immunity that has waned somewhat; and 7% are the most vulnerable because they were never vaccinated and never infected.

In all, the vast majority of Virginians have at least some immunity, said Bryan Lewis, a computational epidemiologist who leads University of Virginia’s Covid-19 modeling team.

“That’s going to be a nice shield of armor for our population as a whole,” Lewis said.

Still, while the population is better protected, many individuals are not. Even by the most optimistic estimates for population immunity, 80 million or so Americans are still vulnerable. That’s about the same as the total number of confirmed infections in the US during the pandemic.

“The 26% who could still get Omicron right now have to be very careful,” Mokdad said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/17/coronavirus-omicron-three-quarters-americans-immune-covid
« Ostatnia zmiana: Luty 17, 2022, 19:47 wysłana przez Orionid »

Offline Orionid

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« Odpowiedź #256 dnia: Luty 18, 2022, 22:07 »
15) The Moral Danger of Declaring the Pandemic Over Too Soon
Feb. 17, 2022 By Gregg Gonsalves


An AIDS demonstration in Paris in 1993.Credit... Chip Hires/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Dr. Gonsalves is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, a longtime AIDS activist and a 2018 MacArthur fellow.

The early 1990s were in many ways the most terrible of those first years of the AIDS epidemic in America. Research on the disease was in high gear, but drug after drug failed to stop H.I.V. Funerals for friends and family in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s continued unabated, and many of us at risk for getting sick had given up hope of a normal life. My friends and I, most of us just a few years out of college, lived in the moment because we weren’t sure of how much time we had left.

My cousin Carl died from AIDS-related lymphoma in July 1995. That was also the year I found out that I, too, was H.I.V. positive. I wondered if Carl’s fate might be my own soon enough.

But then we got lucky. In 1996 a new generation of treatments called protease inhibitors emerged that were able to control H.I.V. Doctors talked about the Lazarus effect: watching their patients go from near death to health. I enrolled in a clinical trial and started taking the drugs that year. I am alive because of them.

In 1996 the writer Andrew Sullivan came to a meeting of an AIDS activist group I co-founded a few years earlier to push AIDS drug development and research forward. It was just after the data on these protease inhibitors had been unveiled at a major scientific conference. We were known as a crew of hard-core skeptics of claims by drug companies and scientists, but the data clearly showed these drugs were revolutionary. They would change the trajectory of the epidemic for many people, including me. Mr. Sullivan went on to write a piece for The New York Times Magazine titled “When Plagues End,” which was published in November of that year and rightly noted that AIDS was no longer a death sentence for all infected by the virus but a chronic manageable illness.

Of course, as Mr. Sullivan recognized, the AIDS pandemic didn’t fully end. In a way it did end for many white middle-class gay men like us; we had access to these drugs and to good medical care overall and could start to think about getting back to normal. But AIDS still lingered and flourished in America in places that were easy for people like us to ignore.

The virus took root in the African American and Latino communities, particularly among young gay men. It moved from New York City and San Francisco to the South and into rural areas, tracing the geography of health disparities in this country. H.I.V. also continued to ravage Africa, and the pills I was taking wouldn’t be available widely there for several years, until activists shamed the world into taking notice. Rather than acknowledge that high drug prices were keeping the pills out of the hands of others, one U.S. official said that Africans couldn’t tell time and thus the AIDS drugs would do no good there.

Nearly three decades later, we’re in the midst of a different pandemic. And we’ve gotten lucky again: We have vaccines for Covid-19, and they are also revolutionary. The pandemic has changed.

And once more, the desire to get back to normal and to declare the end of another pandemic, at least for some of us, is palpable after more than two years of death, suffering and hardship. Governors’ recent lifting of mask mandates reflects that. There’s a demobilization that many suggest is contingent on what might happen with new variants but could easily become permanent. Much, if not most, of the country has moved on or wants to move on from Covid-19.

It’s also clear that SARS-CoV-2 will be with us for the foreseeable future and that it, too, will follow the fault lines of social and economic inequality in America. It will persist in countries — likely many in Africa — where people have insufficient access to coronavirus vaccines. Some will blame low vaccination rates on the hesitancy of those nations’ residents rather than drug companies withholding their vaccine technology to allow for global scale-up.

There has to be a better way out of the rubble of the past two years. What would it mean to move into a future in which a common fate mattered as much as our own? It would mean no one was disposable.

The lesson of the AIDS pandemic is that it’s easy to leave people behind, even if it is at the cost of our collective peril. Coronavirus variants can develop in people with weakened immune systems who struggle to clear infections on their own, like those with untreated H.I.V. Think of the home we’ve then made for viruses like SARS-CoV-2 by impeding access to vaccines and by allowing millions to go without AIDS treatment even now. Variants can emerge because of our desire to put it all behind us. No one is truly safe until we all are. Yet might we act to save millions of people not just in the interest of self-preservation but also simply because it’s the right thing to do? That would be a signal that this pandemic has changed us. For good.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/opinion/aids-pandemic-covid.html

16) ‘No light at the end’: How Hong Kong’s Covid response went so wrong
Helen Davidson in Taipei and Sum Lok-kei in Hong Kong Fri 18 Feb 2022 06.55 GMT


Hong Kong’s hospitals are under pressure as an Omicron outbreak spreads through the city. Photograph: Lam Yik/Reuters

A policy of admitting every positive case to hospital means thousands are being added to an already huge backlog every day

The beds pile up outside Hong Kong’s Caritas hospital. In the cold night, elderly patients lie on gurneys covered with blankets and thermal foil sheets. A woman in pink folds her arms against the chill, while another reaches across her bed in an apparent gesture of comfort to a neighbour. Nearby, others crowd into yellow and blue spillover tents lining the car park edges. The hospital staff attend people calling out when they can, but they are outnumbered. Wails from patients carry through the air.

There are similar scenes across the city, where 11 public hospitals were operating at or beyond capacity as of Friday. Private hospitals refuse to take Covid patients. Photos supplied to the Guardian show a treatment room inside one hospital earlier this week (88% capacity) with gurneys three deep across the thoroughfare, on a floor strewn with garbage. Bathrooms that no one has had time to clean were soiled with faeces, dirt and discarded biohazard bags. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/18/no-light-at-the-end-how-hong-kongs-covid-response-went-so-wrong

17) Six African countries to begin making mRNA vaccines as part of WHO scheme
Peter Beaumont Fri 18 Feb 2022 12.44 GMT

Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia first countries to be assisted by global mRNA hub


The Biovac bio-pharmaceutical company in South Africa. Currently only 1% of the vaccines used in Africa are produced on the continent of about 1.3 billion people. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia – will be the first on the continent to receive the technology needed to produce their own mRNA vaccines from a scheme headed by the World Health Organization.

The groundbreaking project aims to assist low- and middle-income countries in manufacturing mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards, with the aim of ending much of the reliance of African countries on vaccine manufacturers outside the continent.

The announcement comes in the same week that BioNTech, which produces the Pfizer vaccine for Covid-19 – itself an mRNA vaccine – announced it planned to deliver factory facilities built out of shipping containers to several African countries to allow the Pfizer vaccine to be produced on the continent.

Primarily set up to address the Covid-19 pandemic, the global mRNA hub has the potential to expand manufacturing capacity for other vaccines and products, such as insulin to treat diabetes, cancer medicines and, potentially, vaccines for diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.

The WHO established its global mRNA technology transfer hub after vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries – and problems with supply from India, as companies prioritised sales to governments that could pay the highest price – meant low- and middle-income countries were pushed to the back of the queue for Covid-19 vaccines.

The scheme’s ultimate goal is to spread capacity for national and regional production to all health technologies.

While the BioNTech initiative was welcomed for potentially shortening the supply chain of the Pfizer vaccine to Africa, it was also criticised for not sharing technological knowhow, which the WHO project will go some way towards redressing.

“No other event like the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods is limiting, and dangerous,” said the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announcing the first recipients of the technology on Friday after visiting the hub in South Africa last week.

“The hub will be not just for South Africa, it’s for Africa, Africa and the whole world, because the spokes will be distributed all over the world.”

“The best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need.”

“We expect clinical trials [in South Africa] to start in the fourth quarter of this year, with approval expected in 2024, but this process can be sped up, [and] there are other options that the hub is exploring.

Tedros added that the benefits of this initiative would “extend far beyond Covid-19, by creating a platform for vaccines against other diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and even cancer. So this is a strategic investment, not just for Covid, but for all the major health problems that we face”.

Tedros has repeatedly called for equitable access to vaccines in order to beat the pandemic, and rails against the way wealthy nations have hoarded doses, leaving Africa lagging behind other continents in the global vaccination effort.

He pointed out on Friday that 116 countries globally were still off-track for the target of vaccinating 70% of the population by the middle of this year, while 80% of the population of Africa was yet to receive a single dose.

Currently only 1% of the vaccines used in Africa are produced on the continent of about 1.3 billion people.

The WHO said it would work with the six countries to develop a roadmap of training and support so they could start producing vaccines as soon as possible. Training will begin in March.

The South African hub is already producing mRNA vaccines at laboratory scale and is scaling up towards commercial scale.

The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said Friday’s announcement “means mutual respect, mutual recognition of what we can all bring to the party, investment in our economies, infrastructure investment and, in many ways, giving back to the continent”.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said supporting African health sovereignty was one of the key goals of starting up local production, “to empower regions and countries to fend for themselves, during crises, and in peacetime”.

Ramaphosa said on Friday that the global vaccine distribution scheme Covax and vaccines alliance Gavi should commit themselves to buying vaccines from local manufacturing hubs.

“The lack of a market for vaccines produced in Africa is something that should be concerning to all of us. Organisations such as Covax and Gavi need to commit to buying vaccines from local manufacturers instead of going outside of those hubs that have been set up,” Ramaphosa said.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/18/six-african-countries-to-begin-making-mrna-vaccines-as-part-of-who-scheme

18) Covid pandemic sparks steep rise in number of people in UK with long-term illness
James Tapper Sat 5 Mar 2022 13.00 GMT

Figures have soared by 1.2m in two years of pandemic as long Covid takes its toll


Dr Susannah Thompson got Covid in April 2020 and now uses a wheelchair as a result.

More than a third of working-age people in the UK now suffer from a long-term illness, with new figures showing a dramatic rise since the pandemic began. Post-Covid conditions, including long Covid, breathing difficulties and mental-health problems, are among the causes, according to disability charities and health campaigners.

An Observer analysis of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) labour market status of disabled people figures shows that nearly 14.2 million people in the UK aged 16 to 64 said they had a health condition lasting for at least 12 months in 2021 – a rise of 1.2 million during the two years of the pandemic.

Levels of long-term ill-health had been rising more slowly before the emergence of Covid, at an annual average of about 275,000 cases a year between 2014 and 2018, but the rapid increase over the last two years highlights the health problems facing the UK, says the disability charity Scope.

About 800,000 more people suffered from mental-health problems in 2020-21 than did so in 2018-19, Scope said, and the number of people with chest and breathing problems had grown by about 570,000 over the same period.

James Taylor, Scope’s director of strategy, said: “These figures show the ongoing shock waves of the past two years continue to affect lives today. We’re concerned things will continue to get worse as time goes on.

“ These figures could mean more people living with the extra costs that come with disability. As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, we know that disabled people are twice as likely to live in a cold house and three times as likely to not have been able to afford food. “The government needs to get a grip on the cost of living crisis, and target financial support directly at disabled people.”



Susannah Thompson before she got Covid: ‘I’ve always been active – I was a cold-water sea swimmer.’

Long Covid is another factor. The latest ONS long Covid report estimates that 1.5 million have had Covid symptoms for more than four weeks, and 685,000 people had symptoms that had lasted more than a year.

Further analysis by Long Covid Kids shows that people with pre-existing conditions are more likely to suffer long Covid than those without. Those whose activity is limited are, on average, more than three times as likely to suffer long Covid as those with no pre-existing conditions.

Dr Susannah Thompson was infected in April 2020 while working as a GP in her local hospital’s urgent care centre in north-west England. She made a “slow, gradual recovery” over the next months and was involved in setting up the GP-led vaccination programme until she had a “massive relapse” in January 2021.

“I ended up in hospital, rushed into resus [resuscitation],” she said. “I struggled to even hold a pen to write my name.” She has had constant leg pain, chilblains, brain fog – and even sitting up can send her heart racing to 140 beats per minute. “Since then I haven’t been able to see a patient,” she said. “I’ve always been active – I was a cold-water sea swimmer. I went from being able to throw myself in the sea twice a week to struggling to get in and out of a bath.”

She now uses an electric wheelchair to take her children to school and is on sick leave from her roles as GP and medical director.

“It feels like we’re ignoring long Covid,” Thompson said. “People in the middle of their lives are getting robbed of their livelihoods, at risk of losing their homes. I can’t fathom why we don’t try to prevent it. But we’re not.”

Ondine Sherwood, co-founder of Long Covid SoS, said: “We don’t yet have data on how many infected during the huge Omicron wave will go on to experience prolonged symptoms, so [numbers] will almost certainly grow. Many, if not most of those with long Covid, are of working age and were previously fit and healthy – there is surely going to be a major effect on the workforce.”

She pointed to a study published in Nature last month, which shows that even a mild infection can increase the risk of heart disease for a year after diagnosis. “Given the huge numbers affected, both in the UK and worldwide, there is a real danger that the ‘average’ level of health people enjoy could already be lower and will deteriorate further.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/mar/05/covid-pandemic-sparks-steep-rise-in-number-of-people-in-uk-with-long-term-illness
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19) https://time.com/6144109/russia-ukraine-vladimir-putin-viktor-medvedchuk/
The Untold Story of the Ukraine Crisis (1)
BY SIMON SHUSTER/KYIV  FEBRUARY 2, 2022 7:00 AM EST


A member of the Ukrainian army’s 25th Airborne Brigade at the front line in Avdiivka on Dec. 2 Brendan Hoffman—The New York Times/REDUX

Great wars sometimes start over small offenses. A murdered duke. An angered pope. The belief of a lonely king that his rivals aren’t playing fair. When historians study why armies began gathering in Europe during the plague of 2021, their interest might turn to a teenage girl, the goddaughter of Moscow’s isolated sovereign.

Her name is Daria, a young Ukrainian with a shy smile and big brown eyes. When she was born in 2004, her parents asked their friend Vladimir Putin, then a few years into his reign in Russia, to christen her in the Orthodox tradition they all share. The girl’s father, Viktor Medvedchuk, has been close to Putin for decades. They holiday together on the Black Sea. They conduct business. They obsess over the bonds between their countries and the Western forces they see pulling them apart.

“Our relationship has developed over 20 years,” Medvedchuk told me in a rare interview last spring in Kyiv, near the start of the current standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. “I don’t want to say I exploit that relationship, but you could say it has been part of my political arsenal.”



Guillaume Binet—MYOP

Putin could say the same about Medvedchuk. The leading voice for Russian interests in Ukraine, Medvedchuk’s political party is the biggest opposition force in parliament, with millions of supporters. Over the past year, that party has come under attack. Medvedchuk was charged with treason in May and placed under house arrest in Kyiv. Just last month, the U.S. accused him and his allies of plotting to stage a coup with help from the Russian military.

Throughout his 21 years in power, Putin has seen Ukraine as a fraternal nation, tied to Russia by bonds of faith, family, politics, and a millennium of common history. He has spent the past seven years using every tool at his disposal, including coercion and outright invasion, to preserve those ties, as the Ukrainian people increasingly turn toward the West. Short of war, one of the best ways that Putin has to influence Ukraine is through Medvedchuk and his political party. So it should not be surprising that Russia’s military standoff with the West has escalated in step with the crackdown against his friend.



Medvedchuk, center, faces treason charges in Kyiv Sputnik/AP

Last February, days after the Inauguration of President Joe Biden, America’s allies in Kyiv decided to get tough on Medvedchuk. The Ukrainian government started by taking his TV channels off the air, depriving Russia of its propaganda outlets in the country. The U.S. embassy in Kyiv applauded the move. About two weeks later, on Feb. 19, 2021, Ukraine announced that it had seized the assets of Medvedchuk’s family. Among the most important, it said, was a pipeline that brings Russian oil to Europe, enriching Medvedchuk and his family—including Putin’s goddaughter, Daria—and helping to bankroll Medvedchuk’s political party.

The first inkling of Putin’s response came less than two days later, at 7 a.m. on Feb. 21. In a little-noticed statement, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the deployment of 3,000 paratroopers to the border with Ukraine for “large-scale exercises,” training them to “seize enemy structures and hold them until the arrival of the main force.” Those soldiers were the first in a military buildup that has since grown to more than 100,000 Russian troops. In their scramble to respond, the U.S. and its allies have sent planeloads of weapons to Ukraine and thousands of troops to secure the eastern flank of the NATO alliance.

The resulting standoff has revived the tensions of the Cold War and pushed Europe to the brink of a major military conflict. In trying to discern Putin’s motives, observers have raised his strategic wish to humble the Americans, divide the Europeans, and restore Moscow’s influence over the lands it controlled before its empire crumbled in 1991. But the roots of the crisis have been overlooked. To understand Putin’s objectives, you have to understand both his personal and political ties to Ukraine, as well as his long-standing aim to bring the nation under his control. When Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest, the Russian leader called the attack on his proxies “an absolutely obvious purge of the political field,” one that threatened to turn Ukraine “into Russia’s antithesis, a kind of anti-Russia.”

Few people have a clearer vantage on Putin’s response than the alleged coup plotter, Medvedchuk. In the year before the crisis escalated, he met with Putin several times at his residence near Moscow, despite the pandemic protocols that have kept the Russian leader isolated from all but his top aides. The question that now fills headlines around the world—What does Putin want?—is not a matter of conjecture for his closest friend in Kyiv.

It took me a while to find Medvedchuk’s office amid the alleys of the city center. The address led to an old apartment block near the end of a steep slope, with no outward sign of its political significance. Behind the unmarked door, a handful of armed guards looked at me in silence. One proceeded to search my bag, demanding to know whether it contained a knife or “any kind of shiv.” Medvedchuk was more cordial. Dressed in a fitted blue suit, he had the look of a Ken doll’s father—stiff, tanned, and manicured, with an angular jaw. Upon entering the conference room, he strutted over to a thermostat and asked, “Are you warm enough?”

The story of his friendship with Putin, he said, goes back to the early years of Putin’s presidency. Medvedchuk was chief of staff to Putin’s counterpart in Kyiv, and they often met at official functions. At the time, Russia had all the influence it wanted in Ukraine. Its economy depended on Russia for cheap gas and cheaper loans, and its leaders had no intention of joining any Western alliances.

To strengthen their bond with the Russian leader, Medvedchuk and his wife, a famous news anchor in Ukraine, asked Putin to be the godfather of their newborn. They have stayed close ever since. In one interview on Russian state TV, Medvedchuk recalled how Putin doted on Daria, bringing her a bouquet of flowers and a teddy bear, when he visited the Medvedchuks at their villa in Crimea.



Medvedchuk on vacation with his daughter Daria Courtesy of Viktor Medvedchuk

Their friendship only grew closer after 2014, when a revolution tore their countries apart. Protesters built an encampment on Kyiv’s central square that winter, demanding Ukrainian leaders fight corruption and integrate with the West. More than two months of clashes with police ended on a frigid February morning, when security forces opened fire on the demonstrators, killing dozens of them in the streets.

The regime collapsed the following day. Its leaders fled across the border to Russia, and as their political party fell apart, so did the machinery of Russian influence over its neighbor. “There is no legitimate authority in Ukraine now,” Putin fumed in a speech at the Kremlin that spring. “No one to talk to.” The revolution, he claimed, was nothing more than a U.S.-backed coup, and he responded by ordering his troops to invade. After swiftly taking over Crimea, Russian forces moved into the coal-mining heartland of eastern Ukraine, installing separatist puppet regimes in two of its biggest cities.

As Ukraine fought back in the east, its capital became a political battleground. The remnants of the pro-Russian establishment set out to build new parties in Ukraine, each vying for the old regime’s voters. “We knew Putin does not want chaos and war in Ukraine in the long term,” says an adviser to one of the Ukrainian oligarchs who funded these parties. “He wants a protectorate, a loyal government, like he had before.” Russia’s allies in Kyiv wanted the right to run for office, to buy up industries, and to control TV networks. As the Russian lawmaker Konstantin Zatulin explained it to me at the time: “This would be our compromise. Russia would have its own soloists in the great Ukrainian choir, and they would sing for us.” Under that arrangement, he added, “We would have no need to tear Ukraine apart.”

The U.S. was not open to that kind of deal, and the Obama Administration took a hard line against Russia’s operatives in Kyiv. Many of them were sanctioned right after Russia invaded in March 2014; Medvedchuk was at the top of the blacklist. Still, by the end of 2018, the pro-Russian parties achieved a breakthrough in Ukraine, forming an alliance called Opposition Platform—For Life. Backed by billionaires sympathetic to Moscow, they owned three television networks in Ukraine. And their party’s chairman was Putin’s old friend Medvedchuk.

During elections held the following year, Ukraine voted in a new President, an actor and comedian named Volodymyr Zelensky. His popularity derived from a hit sitcom called Servant of the People, in which he starred as a fictional President. Three months later, Zelensky’s political party won a majority in parliament. But Medvedchuk’s faction came in second place, making it the biggest opposition force in the country. “Millions of citizens voted for us,” Medvedchuk told me. “Putin gave a promise to protect them.”

Medvedchuk’s TV channels worked to weaken the new government. “They were eating into the electoral base, just destroying Zelensky,” says the President’s first national security adviser, Oleksandr Danyliuk. The networks were especially relentless in attacking the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its failure to secure vaccine supplies from Western allies. When Russia released its own vaccine in August 2020, Medvedchuk, his wife, and their daughter Daria were among the first to get it. They then flew to Moscow to talk to Putin. It was the first public meeting the Russian leader had with anyone—unmasked, on camera, and without social distancing—since the pandemic began. Their talks that day resulted in a deal for Russia to supply Ukraine with millions of doses of its vaccine, and to allow Ukrainian labs to produce it free of charge.

When Medvedchuk brought the offer to Kyiv, the government rejected it. So did the U.S. State Department, which accused Russia of using its vaccine as a tool of political influence. But as the death toll mounted in Ukraine—and no vaccine shipments arrived from the West—voters turned away from Zelensky in droves. By the fall of 2020, his approval ratings fell well below 40%, compared with over 70% a year earlier. In some polls taken that December, Medvedchuk’s party was in the lead.



Viktor Medvedchuk meeting Putin near Moscow in October 2020 Alexei Druzhinin—TASS/Getty Images

Zelensky grew especially concerned about the party’s television channels, which he condemned as messengers of Russian propaganda. When he decided to take those channels off the air last February, it was not only a defensive move, says Danyliuk, his former security adviser. It was also conceived as a welcome gift to the Biden Administration, which had made the fight against international corruption a pillar of its foreign policy. As Danyliuk put it, the decision to go after Putin’s friend “was calculated to fit in with the U.S. agenda.”

Throughout the ensuing military crisis, the U.S. has had no ambassador in Kyiv. The last one, Marie Yovanovitch, was fired in April 2019 after she ran afoul of President Trump’s campaign to extract political favors from Ukraine. Trump wanted the Ukrainians to investigate the Biden family, and he froze military aid to Kyiv as a means of pressure. The resulting scandal led to Trump’s first impeachment in the House, and it left the U.S. embassy in Kyiv hollowed out and demoralized.

“My chain of command went to sh-t,” says Suriya Jayanti, who was then a senior diplomat at the embassy. “We just disappeared.” That did not change, she says, after Biden took office last year. His top foreign policy staff was focused on confronting China, she says, and they tended to see Russia as a nuisance to be managed or ignored. “His team didn’t care about Russia,” Jayanti told me in Kyiv last fall, shortly before she resigned from government. “And they didn’t want to hear about Ukraine.” Only in recent days, nearly a year into the crisis, did Biden pick a new ambassador to Kyiv, who has not yet been installed.



Lon Tweeten/TIME

A senior U.S. official tells TIME that Ukraine has always been a top priority for the Administration: “There has been very extensive and almost constant focus on Ukraine from day one.” When the Zelensky government decided to go after Medvedchuk, the U.S. welcomed it as part of Ukraine’s struggle to “counter Russian malign influence,” the official said. The methods used in this struggle have been novel and controversial. Rather than working through the justice system, Zelensky has imposed sanctions against Ukrainian tycoons and politicians, freezing their assets by decree.

This strategy, which the government calls “de-oligarchization,” has targeted many of Zelensky’s domestic opponents and, in particular, their television channels. The U.S. has avoided criticizing the crackdown, not wanting to “micromanage” what Ukraine was doing, said the senior U.S. official. But in the case of Medvedchuk, the U.S. embassy cheered Zelensky on. “We support Ukraine’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity through sanctions,” the embassy said in a tweet last February, the day after the sanctions froze Medvedchuk’s assets.

The party leader was furious. “This is political repression,” Medvedchuk told me. “All my bank accounts are frozen. I can’t manage my assets. I can’t even pay my utility bills.”

In April, as Russian forces assembled at the border, Zelensky traveled to the front lines to meet his troops, and invited me to come along. Military helicopters got us most of the way to the trenches, but the last few hundred paces required a hike through the mud with a handful of soldiers and bodyguards. One of them lugged a big machine gun, with boxes of shells latched to his belt.

The President spent the day talking to his troops, dining with them, and handing out medals. Considering the number of Russian tanks poised to invade from across the nearby border, he seemed remarkably upbeat. We spent the night near the garrison, and he arrived at the mess hall for breakfast in a track suit, fresh from a morning jog through the war zone.

On the flight back that day, we talked about Medvedchuk and his TV networks, and whether it seemed wise in hindsight to shut them down. Zelensky made no apologies. “I consider them devils,” the President told me. “Their narratives seek to disarm Ukraine of its statehood.” As the Kyiv skyline appeared through the window and the plane began to descend, Zelensky grew upset. “Al Capone killed a lot of people, but he got locked up over his taxes,” he told me. “I think these TV channels killed a lot of people through the information war.”

Some of his advisers, especially in the intelligence community, were less enthusiastic about the move against Medvedchuk. “At least he’s the devil we know,” one retired spy chief told me in Kyiv, agreeing to discuss the issue on condition of anonymity. Since Russia first started the war in 2014, Medvedchuk has served as one of the lead negotiators in numerous rounds of peace talks, often winning the release of prisoners of war. “He has direct access to Putin,” the spy chief told me. That kind of access is rare, he says, and it has made Medvedchuk an effective mediator.

Zelensky was not moved by such arguments. On May 12, about a month after our trip to the front lines, Ukrainian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Medvedchuk. Prosecutors alleged that he had profited from the Russian occupation of Crimea, and they charged him with treason. A court ordered him to remain under house arrest pending trial, cut off from his voters and prevented from attending sessions of parliament.

U.S. law enforcement went after his allies. Oleh Voloshyn, a prominent member of Medvedchuk’s party, was greeted by the FBI when he arrived in Washington last July. Two agents approached him at Dulles International Airport and asked to have a word in private, away from his wife and infant son, who were traveling with him. Voloshyn, who serves as Medvedchuk’s envoy in the West, spent the next three hours answering the agents’ questions. “They took my cell phone,” Voloshyn told me of the incident, which has not been previously reported. “And they took all the information from my cell phone.”
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« Odpowiedź #258 dnia: Kwiecień 22, 2022, 03:57 »
The Untold Story of the Ukraine Crisis (2)


Voloshyn, whom the U.S. has accused of being part of a coup plot, at his office in Kyiv Jan. 29 Maxim Dondyuk for TIME

In a statement on Jan. 20, the U.S. government leveled an astonishing series of allegations against Voloshyn and Medvedchuk. It claimed that they are part of an ongoing Kremlin plot to install a puppet government in Ukraine, propped up by a Russian military occupation. “Russia has directed its intelligence services to recruit current and former Ukrainian government officials to prepare to take over the government of Ukraine and to control Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with an occupying Russian force,” said the statement from the U.S. Treasury Department, which imposed sanctions on Voloshyn and other alleged plotters.

When we spoke by phone the following day, Voloshyn had already pulled his money out of the bank and was preparing to leave Kyiv with his family. “Maybe Serbia,” he says of his destination. “Maybe Russia.” He told me he has no intention of taking power in Ukraine with help from the Russian military, and said the aim of his party was always to win power peacefully—either through elections or, as Voloshyn put it, a diplomatic “compromise” between the Russia and the West. “There is no third option,” he says. “Russia either gets the influence it wants by peaceful means, or it gets it by force.”

With Medvedchuk sidelined and his party in retreat, the Kremlin has no clear path to influence over Ukraine through politics, and that raises the temptation to use hard power, Voloshyn told me. “You have to understand,” he says. “There are hawks around Putin who want this crisis. They are ready to invade. They come to him and say, ‘Look at your Medvedchuk. Where is he now? Where is your peaceful solution? Sitting under house arrest? Should we wait until all pro-Russian forces are arrested?’”

Nearly 12 months since it began, the crisis in Ukraine has become far bigger and more dangerous than any political grudge. In early December, as over 100,000 Russian troops stood at the border with Ukraine, Biden held a call with Putin to defuse the tensions. According to the White House, the President offered to hear out all of Russia’s “strategic concerns,” opening the door to a far more sweeping set of talks. It was a breakthrough for Putin to get a U.S. President to engage with him on the future of the NATO alliance, which Putin has long described as the main threat to Russian security.

The response from Russian diplomats smacked of an old negotiating tactic: start high. They demanded a written guarantee from the U.S. that Ukraine would never join NATO. They also told the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from Eastern Europe, retreating to positions they held before Putin took power. As the lead Russian envoy put it ahead of talks in January, “NATO needs to pack up its stuff and get back to where it was in 1997.” Rather than defusing the standoff, Biden’s overture allowed Russia to air a long list of grievances against the West, unleashing what one Kremlin insider in Moscow described to me as “an enormous pile of pent-up tensions.”



A satellite image taken Dec. 23 shows a deployment of Russian troops at the Opuk training ground in Crimea Maxar Tech/AFP/Getty Images

As the talks progressed through January, Russians came to believe they had the upper hand as long as they could keep up the military pressure on Ukraine. “It’s the perfect time to make some trades, to get sanctions removed, to talk about security concerns,” says the Kremlin insider, who agreed to discuss the negotiations on condition of anonymity. “The logic is simple,” the source adds. “If we don’t put a lot of fear into them, we will not get to a clear solution, because that’s just how the Western system works. It’s very hard for them to reach a consensus on something. All those moving parts, all those checks and balances, each one pulling in different directions. So the aim is to present a threat of such massive consequences that it forces everyone on that side to agree.”

The gambit appears to be failing. The U.S. has rejected Russia’s core demands out of hand, and prepared a raft of sanctions that would cut much of the Russian economy off from the rest of the world. “The gradualism of the past is out, and this time we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there,” says a senior Administration official.

Biden has begun to warn Ukraine and other allies that a Russian invasion looks imminent. Over 8,500 U.S. troops were put on high alert in January, prepared to deploy to Eastern Europe alongside naval ships and warplanes. The State Department ordered nonessential staff and family members to leave the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, it said, out of “an abundance of caution.”



Ukrainian forces on a joint patrol Jan. 9 near the border with Belarus Tyler Hicks—The New York Times/REDUX

It is far from clear whether peace talks can bring Europe back from the brink of war, or what Putin might consider a face-saving compromise. Under the Kremlin’s pandemic protocols, the Russian leader has been more isolated during this crisis than at any point in his career. In early January, when he would normally celebrate Orthodox Christmas among the crowds at a Russian cathedral, the Kremlin issued footage of the President alone with a priest, solemnly holding a candle in the chapel of his private residence. “Very few people can speak to him now,” the Kremlin insider told me. “The world inside his head is only his own.”

In Kyiv, Putin’s friend is even more isolated. Stripped of its main TV channels and beset by criminal charges, Medvedchuk’s party has been sinking in the polls. Medvedchuk remains under house arrest, with a tracking device affixed to his ankle and police officers stationed outside his home. His daughter’s security was such a concern that he declined to say anything about her whereabouts. But one of his associates told me that Daria remains in Kyiv, surrounded by private security guards. The main concern, the associate said, is kidnapping. “But yes, she’s still here.”



20) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/12/ukraine-arrest-putin-ally-viktor-medvedchuk
Ukraine announces arrest of Putin ally in ‘lightning-fast’ operation
Julian Borger in Washington Tue 12 Apr 2022 23.07 BST

Viktor Medvedchuk had escaped house arrest on treason charges days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine


Viktor Medvedchuk in Kyiv in May 2021. Photograph: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters

Ukrainian security services have announced the arrest of Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine, the oligarch and opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk, in what they called a “lightning-fast and dangerous” operation.

The capture of Medvedchuk, who escaped house arrest on treason charges days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was first announced by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who posted a picture of the detainee on social media, dishevelled, in handcuffs and dressed in army fatigues with a Ukrainian flag patch.



Viktor Medvedchuk in handcuffs and dressed in an army uniform. Photograph: Instagram account of Volodymyr Zelenskiy/AFP/Getty Images

“A special operation was carried out by the security service of Ukraine. Well done!” Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram, and later suggested exchanging him for Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia.

“I propose to the Russian Federation to exchange this guy of yours for our boys and our girls who are now in Russian captivity,” Zelensky said in a video address posted on Telegram.

Medvedchuk grew rich from Russian oil interests and his proximity to the Kremlin.

Putin is godfather to his youngest daughter, and Medvedchuk’s coalition, Opposition Platform – For Life, pursued a pro-Moscow agenda until he was charged with treason in May 2021, accused of selling military secrets to Russia and exploiting the natural resources of Crimea under Russian occupation. He denied wrongdoing and was under house arrest before fleeing during the first days of the invasion.

Investigators who went to Medvedchuk’s house found a replica of a vintage Pullman railway carriage, opulently furnished with gold fittings, standing at a mock-up of a railway station, all hidden under a tarpaulin.

His $200m 93-meter yacht, the Royal Romance, was seized in the Croatian port of Rijeka last month.



Viktor Medvedchuk’s yacht, the Royal Romance, in Rijeka, Croatia. Photograph: Matija Djanjesic/Cropix/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

In January, the US put Medvedchuk and three other Moscow-backed Ukrainian politicians under sanctions, accusing them of involvement in a plot to set up a collaborator government in the wake of the Russian invasion.

Zelenskiy also suspended Medvedchuk’s party – Ukraine’s largest opposition grouping – and several other smaller political parties tied to Moscow in March.

Medvedchuk’s arrest and indictment angered Putin who threatened to respond to what he deemed to be political persecution.

It was not immediately clear where and how he was captured.

Ivan Bakanov, the head of the security service (SBU), thanked his investigators and counterintelligence officers who “proved their professionalism and conducted a lightning and dangerous multi-level special operation to detain deputy Medvedchuk”.

“You can hide from justice. You can even wear a Ukrainian military uniform to disguise … But will it help you escape from punishment? Not at all!” the SBU said in a tweet.

Kyiv’s crackdown on Medvedchuk had sparked anger in the Kremlin, with Putin vowing at one stage to “respond” to what he called a political persecution.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, would not comment on news of Medvedchuk’s capture, telling Russian reporters that “there are a lot of fakes coming from Ukraine” and “this needs to be checked first”.


21) Covid had devastating toll on poor and low-income communities in US
Ed Pilkington Mon 4 Apr 2022 11.00 BST

Poor People’s Pandemic Report concludes that while virus did not discriminate between rich and poor, society and government did


A sea of more than 670,000 white flags cover 20 acres of the National Mall in an art memorial for Covid-19 victims on 18 September 2021. Photograph: Allison Bailey/Rex/Shutterstock

The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on poor and low-income communities across America is laid bare in a new report released on Monday that concludes that while the virus did not discriminate between rich and poor, society and government did.

As the US draws close to the terrible landmark of 1 million deaths from coronavirus, the glaringly disproportionate human toll that has been exacted is exposed by the Poor People’s Pandemic Report. Based on a data analysis of more than 3,000 counties across the US, it finds that people in poorer counties have died overall at almost twice the rate of those in richer counties.

Looking at the most deadly surges of the virus, the disparity in death rates grows even more pronounced. During the third pandemic wave in the US, over the winter of 2020 and 2021, death rates were four and a half times higher in the poorest counties than those with the highest median incomes.

During the recent Omicron wave, that divergence in death rates stood at almost three times.

Such a staggering gulf in outcomes cannot be explained by differences in vaccination rates, the authors find, with more than half of the population of the poorest counties having received two vaccine shots. A more relevant factor is likely to be that the poorest communities had twice the proportion of people who lack health insurance compared with the richer counties.

“The findings of this report reveal neglect and sometimes intentional decisions to not focus on the poor,” said Bishop William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign which jointly prepared the research. “The neglect of poor and low-wealth people in this country during a pandemic is immoral, shocking and unjust.”

The report was produced by the Poor People’s Campaign in partnership with a team of economists at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) led by Jeffrey Sachs. They have number-crunched statistics from more than 3,200 counties as a way of comparing the poorest 10% with the richest 10%.

They then interrogate the interplay between Covid death rates and poverty, as well as other crucial demographic factors such as race and occupation.

Until now the extent to which the virus has struck low-income communities has been difficult to gauge because official mortality data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and elsewhere has not systematically factored in income and wealth information.

The new report seeks to fill that gaping hole in understanding of the US pandemic. One of its most striking findings is that within the top 300 counties with the highest death rates, 45% of the population on average lives below the poverty line as defined as 200% of the official poverty measure.

Sachs, a Columbia University professor who is president of the UN SDSN, said the findings underlined how the pandemic was not just a national tragedy but also a failure of social justice. “The burden of disease – in terms of deaths, illness and economic costs – was borne disproportionately by the poor, women, and people of color. The poor were America’s essential workers, on the frontlines, saving lives and also incurring disease and death.”

The authors rank US counties according to the intersection of poverty and Covid-19 death rates. Top of the list is Galax county, a small rural community in south-west Virginia.

Its death rate per 100,000 people stands at an astonishing 1,134, compared with 299 per 100,000 nationally. Median income in the county is little more than $33,000, and almost half of the population lives below the poverty line.

Among the counties with punishingly high poverty and death rates is the Bronx in New York City, where 56% of the population is Hispanic and 29% Black. More than half of the borough lives under the poverty line, and the Covid death rate is 538 per 100,000 – within the highest 10% in the US.

Racial disparities have been at the centre of the pandemic experience in the US. Early on it became clear that Black people and Hispanics in New York City, for instance, were dying of Covid at twice the rate of whites and Asians.

The consequences of such racial inequity are still only now becoming visible. Last week a study in the journal Social Science & Medicine reached a disturbing conclusion.

It found that when white Americans were informed through the media that Black Americans were dying at higher rates than their demographic group was, their fear of the virus receded and they became less empathetic towards those vulnerable to the disease. They were also more likely to abandon Covid safety precautions such as masks and social distancing.

But low-income predominantly white communities are also in peril. Mingo county in West Virginia, for example, has one of the lowest income levels in the US following the collapse of coal mining and the scourge of the opioid epidemic.

The county is 96% white, with over half its residents living below the poverty line. Its Covid death rate is 470 per 100,000 – putting it within the top quarter of counties in the nation for pandemic mortality.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/04/us-covid-devastating-toll-poor-low-income-communities

22) Covid infections remain around record levels in most of UK, figures show
Nicola Davis Science correspondent Fri 8 Apr 2022 13.51 BST


People wearing masks on Oxford Street in London. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

ONS data reveals about one in 13 people had virus in week ending 2 April, with only Scotland seeing fall

(...) The ONS survey confirms that the Omicron variant BA.2 remains the most common variant in the UK. BA.2 is more transmissible than the original form of Omicron, BA.1, that reached the UK towards the end of last year.

While BA.2 is believed to have played a key role in the latest wave of infections, experts have suggested the removal of Covid restrictions, waning immunity and a shift towards pre-pandemic behaviour could also be contributing.

According to a report from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), released on Friday, several variants of Omicron have now been identified, although not all have been detected in the UK. The report adds that the XE variant – a combination of BA.1 and BA.2 – is now spreading almost 21% faster than BA.2, with 1,125 cases in England identified as of 5 April.

The ONS data also reveals variations by age, with infection levels rising among those between school year 12 and those aged 34, while 7.1% of those aged 70 and over were thought to have had Covid in the week, the highest level yet for that age group. However, infections fell among younger children and those between the ages of 35 and 49, with the trend unclear among other age groups. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/08/covid-infections-uk-office-national-statistics-coronavirus
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22) German government drops plan for Covid vaccine mandate
Kate Connolly in Berlin Fri 8 Apr 2022 16.45 BST


A protester opposed to mandatory vaccination outside the German parliament in Berlin Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Decision taken after MPs rejected draft bill is seen as humiliating defeat for chancellor Olaf Scholz

The German government has buried its plans to introduce a coronavirus vaccine mandate after parliament rejected it, but says further restrictions may be inevitable to protect more vulnerable citizens.

MPs voted against the draft bill on Thursday, which had it passed would have made it compulsory for over-60s to receive a vaccine, in what is seen as a humiliating defeat for the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who has long been calling for the legislation. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/08/german-government-drops-plan-for-covid-vaccine-mandate

23) Psaki, Garland, Pelosi: Covid-19 spreads among leading Democrats and Biden officials
Gloria Oladipo in New York and agencies Fri 8 Apr 2022 17.12 BST

Several dozen tested positive after a dinner hosted by the Gridiron Club, where proof of vaccine was required


The attorney general, Merrick Garland, is among the prominent figures in Washington who has tested positive for Covid. Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Growing numbers of prominent members of Congress and senior staffers in Washington DC are contracting Covid-19, sparking concerns about the risk to Joe Biden as unmasked events increase at the White House.

Celebrations were being held on Friday at the White House for the Senate confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the supreme court and the event was happening out of doors, said the press secretary, Jen Psaki, who missed the US president’s trip to Europe last month after testing positive for coronavirus. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/08/covid-19-spreads-democrats-biden-officials

24) Elective surgeries may soon be delayed due to staff shortages, Victorian hospital body says
Adeshola Ore Fri 8 Apr 2022 21.00 BST

Exclusive: Four health services already failing to meet nurse-to-patient ratios ahead of expected Covid surge


The Victoria Healthcare Association says hospitals are experiencing a ‘difficult time again’ due to increasing Covid cases, backfilling of leave and furloughed staff. Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP

Victoria’s peak public hospital body has warned elective surgeries could be wound back if demand for emergency care spikes during a predicted surge in Covid cases in the coming weeks.

The state’s Department of Health confirmed to Guardian Australia that four health services across the state were already not meeting the minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.

The Victoria Healthcare Association predicts staff shortages will worsen over the coming weeks and months, as the state braces for the current wave of infections from the Omicron subvariant to peak later this month. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/apr/09/elective-surgeries-may-soon-be-delayed-due-to-staff-shortages-victorian-hospital-body-says

25) Sri Lanka nearly out of medicine as doctors warn toll from crisis could surpass Covid
Agence France-Presse in Colombo Mon 11 Apr 2022 00.46 BST

Emergency surgery may soon be impossible, president told, while protests continue amid worsening economic downturn


Protesters outside the Sri Lankan president’s office call for his resignation as anger mounts over the country’s deepening economic crisis. Photograph: Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Sri Lanka’s doctors have warned they are almost out of life-saving medicines and say the country’s economic crisis threatened a worse death toll than the coronavirus pandemic.

Weeks of power blackouts and severe shortages of food, fuel and pharmaceuticals have brought widespread misery to Sri Lanka, which is suffering its worst downturn since independence in 1948. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/11/sri-lanka-nearly-out-of-medicine-as-doctors-warn-toll-from-crisis-could-surpass-covid

26) Shanghai to ease lockdown despite surge in Covid cases
Vincent Ni China affairs correspondent Mon 11 Apr 2022 13.28 BST

China’s most populous city to allow ‘appropriate activity’ in areas where there have been no cases for at least two weeks


A man rides a scooter on near-empty street during the phased lockdown triggered by the Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai. Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

Shanghai authorities will start easing lockdown in some areas on Monday, despite reporting a record of more than 25,000 new Covid cases in the country’s most populous city and one of its most significant financial centres.

The metropolis of nearly 26 million people will allow what city official Gu Honghui said was “appropriate activity” in some neighbourhoods where there have been no positive cases for at least two weeks. Residents of these neighbourhoods are not allowed to travel to those still under severe lockdowns. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/11/shanghai-to-ease-lockdown-despite-surge-in-covid-cases

27) China’s lockdowns will help cut global oil demand, predicts IEA
Rob Davies Wed 13 Apr 2022 12.49 BSTs

Organisation lowers its oil demand forecast as Covid measures cushion impact of lost Russian flows


All 26 million people in Shanghai have been placed in lockdown. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

Draconian lockdown measures introduced in China to combat outbreaks of Covid-19 mean global oil demand will not be as high as expected, the International Energy Agency has said, helping cushion the impact of the dwindling supply from Russia.

In its monthly report on world oil markets, the IEA said it expected Russia’s output to fall by 1.5m barrels per day (bpd) in April, with the decline accelerating to 3m bpd from May, as buyers either voluntarily boycott Kremlin-controlled supplies or hold back because of uncertainty over sanctions.

The projection indicates that as much as 3% of global supply could be lost by the middle of spring as a result, given Russia’s position as the world’s second-largest oil producer. But there was unlikely to be a “sharp deficit” in global oil markets, the IEA said, thanks to multiple factors mitigating the impact of lost Russian flows. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/apr/13/china-lockdowns-will-help-lessen-global-oil-demand-predicts-iea

28) Covid cases rise in north-eastern US, driven by the BA.2 subvariant
Melody Schreiber Thu 14 Apr 2022 13.19 BST

The subvariant of omicron that’s more transmissible than BA.1 was responsible for an estimated 86% of new US cases last week


Customers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they shop at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia on 16 February 2022. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

Covid cases are on the rise in the north-eastern part of the US, as many Americans travel and gather together for spring break and religious holidays.

The rise is being driven by BA.2, a subvariant of Omicron which is more transmissible than its sibling BA.1, and was responsible for an estimated 86% of new Covid-19 cases nationwide last week, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With precautions having been relaxed in many places earlier this year, experts have been looking at whether BA.2 will lead to another surge. “This is what the beginning of surges have looked like” in the past, said Julia Raifman, assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/14/ba2-variant-covid-cases-us-rise-north-east-omicron

29) Lessons from Covid can start a health revolution, says lab chief
James Tapper Sun 17 Apr 2022 08.13 BST

Director of network that processed millions of tests says smart diagnostics could tackle other major diseases


Scientists process samples to test for coronavirus at the Lighthouse lab at Alderley Park in Cheshire, April 2020. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Two years of mass Covid testing have paved the way for a revolution in how we diagnose other diseases, the founding director of the Lighthouse labs network has said.

In his first interview since the pandemic began, Prof Chris Molloy said that people’s familiarity with using swabs for Covid tests meant that they could also discover and monitor their risk of other conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

On 1 April, the government ended free Covid tests for most people as part of what ministers describe as a “living with Covid” strategy, which has seen much of the Covid surveillance and research system dismantled.

The national research studies and England’s NHS test and trace system relied on seven Lighthouse labs to process most of the 207m free PCR tests done during the pandemic in the UK. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/17/lessons-learned-from-covid-can-start-a-health-revolution-lighthouse-labs-chris-molloy

30) Sydney Harbour turns on sunshine as first cruise liner returns since March 2020
Australian Associated Press Mon 18 Apr 2022 03.34 BST


P&O’s Pacific Explorer is the first cruise liner to make a return to Australia since March 2020. Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images for P&O Cruises

Peak body says protocols will provide ‘highest possible levels of prevention, detection and mitigation’ in bid to revive $5bn-a-year sector

The P&O Australia cruise liner Pacific Explorer is the first to make an Australian return since a ban triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

The $400m liner, which has a capacity of almost 2,000 passengers, arrived in Sydney on Monday morning. The ABC showed the ship docking surrounded by tugboats, with a huge banner at the bow reading “We’re Home”.

The Explorer’s return to full service will coincide with that of Ponant’s Le Lapérouse, which will begin operations between Darwin and Broome on 28 April, joining local operators in time for the Kimberley cruise season.


The peak body Cruise Lines International Association Australia says they are engaged in a ‘carefully managed resumption of operations’ as cruise liners begin to return to Australia. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

NSW, Victoria and Queensland have outlined testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew in preparation for the ships to return. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/apr/18/sydney-harbour-turns-on-sunshine-as-first-cruise-liner-returns-since-march-2020

31) Shanghai records first Covid deaths since lockdown imposed on city
Helen Davidson in Taipei Mon 18 Apr 2022 05.07 BST

Three fatalities were one woman aged 89 and two 91-year-olds, highlighting concerns about low vaccination rates among elderly


A worker a Shanghai resident’s details before conducting a Covid-19 test. The city has recorded the first deaths since its lockdown began. Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

Three Covid-19 fatalities have been reported in Shanghai, the first to be officially counted since the beginning of the city’s lockdown.

The three people reported on Monday included two women aged 89 and 91, and a 91-year-old man, who also had underlying health conditions, and were reportedly unvaccinated. Shanghai municipal authorities said the three were admitted to hospital and became critically ill. They died on Sunday “after all efforts were made to rescue them”.

As of 5 April, more than 92 million Chinese people over 65, including 20.2 million over the age of 80, were not fully vaccinated.

The outbreak of the Omicron variant in the Chinese city of more than 24 million people, has so far infected at least 320,000 people since March. It is the worst outbreak in China since the beginning of the pandemic, but despite the high number of cases, zero deaths had been attributed to it. Media reporting has revealed numerous deaths of people after they contracted Covid-19, particularly among elderly people in care homes, but authorities have largely attributed them to the underlying health complaints and not counted them as pandemic fatalities.

At a press conference on Monday, Wu Qianyu, a first-level inspector of the municipal health commission, said the direct cause of death of the three people was their underlying conditions, suggesting authorities have markedly changed the way they attribute Covid-19 deaths.

Shanghai authorities reported 22,248 cases for Sunday, including 19,831 asymptomatic. Of the total cases, 1,414 were detected outside quarantine and isolation facilities – where all positive cases must be sent, except those requiring hospitalisation. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/18/shanghai-records-first-covid-deaths-since-lockdown-imposed-on-city

32) More than 11,000 decide to join NHS after being Covid jab volunteers
Nicola Davis Science correspondent Mon 18 Apr 2022 06.00 BST

Thousands of people start career in health service after participating in UK’s vaccination programme


The NHS said 11,483 volunteer vaccinators have started a new career in the service, with some studying for clinical roles or taking up jobs supporting medical teams. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

More than 11,000 people who volunteered or worked with the UK Covid vaccination programme have decided to take up jobs within the NHS, health officials have revealed.

As the Covid pandemic struck, researchers began work on vaccines to tackle the disease, with the first vaccination after emergency use authorisation given in the UK in December 2020. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/apr/18/more-than-11000-decide-to-join-nhs-after-being-covid-jab-volunteers

33) New Covid cases globally down by nearly a quarter last week
Associated Press Thu 21 Apr 2022 17.08 BST

WHO says nearly 5.59m cases reported between 11 and 17 April, and new deaths down 21% to 18,215


Coronavirus testing in Shanghai, China. Photograph: Reuters

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the number of reported new Covid-19 cases worldwide decreased by nearly a quarter last week, continuing a decline seen since the end of March.

The agency said nearly 5.59m cases were reported between 11 and 17 April, 24% fewer than in the previous week. The number of newly reported deaths dropped 21% to 18,215.

The WHO said cases declined in every region, though only by 2% in the Americas.

It said: “These trends should be interpreted with caution as several countries are progressively changing their Covid-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected.” (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/21/new-covid-cases-globally-down-by-nearly-a-quarter-last-week

34) Lifting of Covid mask mandate on US transportation horrifies health experts
Lauren Aratani Fri 22 Apr 2022 21.55 BST

Warning that ‘This is not the time to be pulling back on mitigation measures’ as CDC appeals judge’s overturning of face-covering rule


Travellers wearing masks and not wearing masks wait in line at a Delta Airlines counter at Logan international airport in Boston this week. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

When the US federal government’s mandate requiring masks on transportation was lifted this week, reports of celebration ensued.

Videos were shared of people removing their masks and cheering, music was blasted over plane speakers, pilots shared the news from the cockpit and flight attendants jumped with joy.

When Maureen Miller, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, heard the news, she had a very different reaction. She was “horrified”.

“We’re basically ensuring that infectious and susceptible people are together for a chunk of time, with no protection at all,” she said.

Public health experts like Miller have widely criticized the removal of the federal travel mask mandate, a contrast to the jubilant stance airlines and some passengers have taken to the news. The dissonance in reactions adds to the confusion over how to behave as the pandemic continues. People are now left to weigh how much risk they want to take – and how much of a risk they want to be to other people – when they travel on planes, buses and trains. The thought is troubling to some who have been studying the pandemic. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/apr/22/covid-mask-mandate-us-transportation-experts
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35) US can manage BA.2 variant ‘without disruption’, top Covid adviser predicts
Richard Luscombe Sun 24 Apr 2022 18.35 BST

Ashish Jha says spreading variant unlikely to have much effect on the nation’s pandemic recovery


Ashish Jha said: ‘At this point, I remain confident that we’re gonna get through this without disruption.’ Photograph: Elise Amendola/AP

The White House Covid response coordinator Ashish Jha appeared to undercut the Biden administration’s efforts to reinstate the federal mask mandate on Sunday, stating that the spreading BA.2 variant in the US was unlikely to have much effect on the nation’s pandemic recovery.

The justice department announced last week it would appeal the decision of a federal judge in Florida to prematurely lift the mandate on air, rail and bus travel in the US, based on the assertion by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that “an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health”. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/24/biden-covid-adviser-ashish-jha-variant

36) Covid lockdown fears spark panic buying in Beijing as largest district begins mass testing
Helen Davidson and agencies Mon 25 Apr 2022 06.52 BST

Residents hope to avoid Shanghai-style shortages as Chinese authorities rush to stamp out outbreak in the capital


Beijing residents line up for food supplies from a grocery store following reports of 19 new Covid cases in the Chinese capital on Monday. Photograph: Xiaoyu Yin/Reuters

Beijingers were flooding supermarkets to stock up on food on Monday, hoping to avoid Shanghai-style shortages in the case of a city-wide lockdown as the capital records a growing number of Covid infections.

Authorities in Beijing have ordered 3.5 million residents and workers in the biggest district of Chaoyang to report for three coronavirus tests this week, after the area recorded 26 of Beijing’s 47 symptomatic cases since Friday.

On Monday, China reported 3,266 symptomatic cases and 20,454 asymptomatic cases. The majority were in Shanghai, where 19,455 were reported. Beijing reported 19 cases on Monday, including 14 symptomatic.

“The current outbreak in Beijing is spreading stealthily from sources that remained unknown yet and is developing rapidly,” a municipality official said on Sunday. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/25/covid-lockdown-fears-spark-panic-buying-in-beijing-as-largest-district-begins-mass-testing

37) Optimism falls as UK factories hit by fastest rise in costs since 1975
Larry Elliott Economics editor Mon 25 Apr 2022 14.00 BST

CBI’s April survey shows firms planning to pass on increase to consumers


The CBI found found that firms are cutting back on investment. Photograph: Colin Mcpherson/The Guardian

Optimism among UK manufacturers has fallen at its sharpest pace since the first coronavirus pandemic lockdown two years ago as firms struggle to cope with the fastest increase in their costs since 1975, according to the latest industry health check.

With the war in Ukraine giving a fresh upward twist to the pressures on companies, the April industrial trends survey from the employers’ organisation the CBI found firms cutting back on investment and planning to pass on higher costs to consumers. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/apr/25/optimism-falls-as-uk-factories-hit-by-fastest-rise-in-costs-since-1975-cbi

38) Beijing halts weddings and funerals and closes schools in Covid fightback
Helen Davidson in Taipei and Oliver Holmes Thu 28 Apr 2022 17.01 BST

Stockpiling rife as city acts in attempt to avoid Shanghai-style lockdown


Beijing residents queue outside a supermarket in the capital as stockpiling led to shortages. Photograph: Mark  Schiefelbein/AP

Beijing has closed schools and suspended weddings and funerals in the city of 22 million in a whirlwind effort to avoid plunging China’s capital into a Shanghai-style Covid lockdown.

Fears that Beijing could soon be in lockdown have already prompted widespread stockpiling, leading to shortages in some supermarkets.

The city’s Education Bureau ordered all city schools to end classes from Friday and said it had not determined when they would be able to resume.

Beijing has moved faster than other places in China to impose restrictions while case numbers remain low. Authorities announced only 50 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total in the latest wave of infections to about 150.

The government is desperate to avoid sweeping measures imposed on Shanghai over the past month, which have caused frustration about shortages of food and basic supplies. Across China, authorities have said they are cracking down on price gouging. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/28/china-crack-down-price-gouging-food-shortages-covid-shanghai-lockdown

39) Anthony Fauci says the US is not in a ‘pandemic phase’. What does that mean?
Melody Schreiber Fri 29 Apr 2022 08.00 BST

With funds for anti-virals and other measure dwindling, some experts are concerned the US is too sanguine about future surges


Anthony Fauci: ‘We are certainly, right now in this country, out of the pandemic phase.’ Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

The US has left the “pandemic phase” at least for now, chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said this week, at the same time that the White House presses for urgently needed Covid-19 funding. But as cases continue mounting around the globe, the pandemic shows no signs of ending yet – and conflicting pictures offered by top health officials may hamper the renewal of critical Covid funds and efforts like vaccination campaigns.

In an interview on Tuesday, Fauci painted an optimistic, if mixed, picture. “We are certainly, right now in this country, out of the pandemic phase,” he said, before adding, “Pandemic means a widespread, throughout the world, infection that spreads rapidly among people.”

Such a definition still applies to the Covid pandemic, experts say. While confirmed cases in the US are lower than during the first Omicron wave, they are rising in nearly all American states, and the virus continues spreading around the world. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/29/us-pandemic-phase-what-does-fauci-mean-covid-19

40) ‘The loss is omnipresent’: the grieving daughter fighting for a US Covid memorial day
Melody Schreiber Tue 10 May 2022 10.00 BST

The founder of Marked by Covid believes the US has failed to properly memorialize the enormous losses


A nurse attaches a ‘Covid Patient’ sticker on the body bag of a patient who died of coronavirus in Los Angeles. Photograph: Jae C Hong/AP

For Kristin Urquiza, there are two dimensions: before Covid, and with it. It’s as if the arrow of time veered off into an entirely new direction, to a world where nearly one million of our loved ones have vanished and millions more are struggling with the long-term effects of a mysterious illness.

“It feels like my father disappeared,” Urquiza said. Her father died on 30 June 2020, at the age of 65, in an Arizona hospital with only an ICU nurse holding his hand. “That shadow, or that loss, is omnipresent.”

And compounding the wrenching grief: many Americans, especially political leaders, don’t want to talk or even think about it, she said. They want to push the pandemic as far behind them as possible, even as people continue dying from Covid every day. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/10/kristin-urquiza-marked-by-covid-us-memorial-day

41) North Korea admits to Covid outbreak for first time and declares ‘severe national emergency’
Justin McCurry in Tokyo Thu 12 May 2022 03.35 BST

Omicron infections create ‘biggest emergency incident in the country’, according to state media, as Kim Jong-un chairs response meeting


Kim Jong-un held a meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea to organize the government's response to an outbreak of Covid-19 Photograph: KCNA/EPA

North Korea has declared a “severe national emergency” after confirming its first outbreak of Covid-19, prompting its leader, Kim Jong-un, to vow to quickly eliminate the virus.

State media reported on Thursday that a sub-variant of the highly transmissible Omicron virus, known as BA.2, had been detected in the capital, Pyongyang.

“There has been the biggest emergency incident in the country, with a hole in our emergency quarantine front, that has been kept safely over the past two years and three months since February 2020,” the official KCNA news agency said.

The report said people in Pyongyang had contracted the Omicron variant, without providing details on case numbers or possible sources of infection.

North Korea had claimed it had not recorded a single case of Covid-19 since it closed its borders at the start of the pandemic more than two years ago. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/12/north-korea-admits-to-covid-outbreak-for-first-time

42) North Korea says six dead after admitting Covid outbreak for first time
Justin McCurry in Tokyo and agencies Fri 13 May 2022 02.54 BST

Regime has said it is imposing ‘maximum emergency measures’ and 187,800 people are being ‘isolated and treated’ after showing signs of fever


North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un appearing in a face mask on television for the first time to order nationwide lockdowns. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has announced its first Covid-19 death amid an “explosive” outbreak of fever, state media said on Friday, one day after the regime admitted for the first time that it was tackling a coronavirus outbreak.

The official KCNA news agency said six people had died, adding that one of them had tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron variant. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/12/north-korean-state-media-confirms-first-covid-death

43) North Korea reports 15 deaths and nearly 300,000 new ‘fever’ cases as Covid outbreak spreads
Reuters Sun 15 May 2022 01.28 BST

Despite nationwide lockdown, there are now more than 800,000 suspected cases in the unvaccinated country


A North Korean state media supplied image of Kim Jong-un speaking at a politburo meeting about the country’s coronavirus outbreak on Saturday. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

North Korea said on Sunday a total of 42 people had died as the country began its fourth day under a nationwide lockdown aimed at stopping the impoverished country’s first confirmed Covid-19 outbreak.

At least 296,180 more people came down with fever symptoms, and 15 more had died as of Sunday, the outlet said.

North Korea’s admission on Thursday that it is battling an “explosive” Covid-19 outbreak has raised concerns that the virus could devastate a country with an under-resourced health system, limited testing capabilities and no vaccine programme.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/15/north-korea-reports-15-deaths-and-nearly-300000-new-fever-cases-as-covid-outbreak-spreads

44) US Covid deaths hit 1m, a death toll higher than any other country
Jessica Glenza Sun 15 May 2022 07.00 BST


American flags fly at half-staff to mark one million deaths from the coronavirus on the National Mall in Washington, on 12 May. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Virus has laid bare America’s fragmented healthcare system and corrosive racial and socioeconomic inequality

More than one million people have died in the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, according to Johns Hopkins, far and away the most deaths of any country.

While the sheer number of deaths from the coronavirus sets the US apart, the country’s large population of 332.5 million people does not explain the staggering mortality rate, which is among the highest in the world.

For every 100,000 residents, 291 people have died from Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Among the 20 worst affected nations, only two other countries – Brazil and Poland – have higher mortality rates per 100,000 people. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/15/1-million-us-covid-deaths-effects

45) North Korea on brink of Covid-19 catastrophe, say experts
Number to have fallen ill reportedly at almost 1.5 million as country grapples with what it calls ‘fever’
Justin McCurry in Tokyo Tue 17 May 2022 13.35 BST


People watch a news report on the coronavirus outbreak in North Korea, 17 May. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

North Korea stands on the brink of a Covid-19 catastrophe unless swift action is taken to provide vaccines and drug treatments, experts have said, as the number of people reported to have fallen ill rose to almost 1.5 million.

The isolated country reported another big rise in new cases of what it continues to refer to as “fever” on Tuesday, days after it admitted it had identified Covid-19 infections for the first time since the start of the global pandemic.

It recorded 269,510 additional cases and six more deaths, bringing the total number killed to 56 since late last month. About 1.48 million people have become ill with the virus since the first case was reported last Thursday and at least 663,910 people were in quarantine, according to official figures. The outbreak is almost certainly greater than the official tally, given a lack of tests and resources to monitor and treat the sick.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/17/north-korea-on-brink-of-covid-19-catastrophe-say-experts

46) Scale of Australia’s aged care Covid deaths laid bare as staff prepare to strike
Christopher Knaus Wed 18 May 2022 18.30 BST

Analysis shows more than 1,400 deaths reported by providers so far in 2022, dwarfing the first two years of pandemic


The aged care sector is grappling with dozens of Covid deaths a week as staff shoulder huge workloads. Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images

Aged care providers have reported more than 350 Covid deaths since the election campaign began and continue to grapple with at least 60 deaths a week, government data shows.

An analysis of government data, conducted by the United Workers Union and confirmed by the Guardian, shows that Covid deaths in aged care facilities are now occurring at rates unseen in the first two years of the pandemic.

Aged care workers are preparing to strike across the country again on Friday, furious at low pay, torrid conditions, and a lack of recognition of the huge workload and workforce pressures caused by Covid.

The latest government report shows 1,418 Covid deaths have been reported by aged care providers so far in 2022, accounting for about one in four of all Covid deaths in Australia. That dwarfs the 686 deaths in aged care in 2020 and 231 deaths in 2021. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/19/scale-of-aged-care-covid-deaths-laid-bare-as-staff-prepare-to-strike

47) White House resumes Covid briefings after six-week hiatus as cases rise
Maya Yang Wed 18 May 2022 18.30 BST

New head of Covid response calls on Congress for additional funding to pay for vaccines and treatments


Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, talks to reporters at the White House in Washington, on 26 April. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

The White House resumed its coronavirus briefings on Wednesday after a six-week hiatus as Covid-19 cases rose across the nation, with the new head of Covid response calling on Congress for additional funding to pay for vaccines and treatments.

“I want to make sure we have enough resources so that we can buy enough vaccines for every American. I think that is absolutely critical. We do not have the resources to do that right now,” said Ashish Jha, the White House’s new coronavirus response coordinator, who replaced Jeff Zients in March. “So without additional funding from Congress, we will not be able to buy enough vaccines for every American who wants one.”

The last White House coronavirus briefing was held on 5 April. Since then, various mask mandates have been lifted across the country, including those on planes, trains and in automobiles.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/18/covid-briefings-biden-white-house-us-cases-rising
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48) North Korea promotes traditional medicines in bid to fight Covid outbreak
Justin McCurry and agencies Thu 19 May 2022 02.42 BST

State media have told patients to use painkillers as well as unverified home remedies such as willow leaf tea


North Korea is increasing production of medical supplies and traditional medicines as it battles a Covid outbreak. Photograph: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea is ramping up production of drugs and medical supplies including sterilisers and thermometers as well as encouraging the use of traditional Korean medicines said to reduce fever and pain as it battles an unprecedented coronavirus outbreak.

Traditional medicines were “effective in prevention and cure of the malicious disease,” state-run news agency KCNA said, although no medical evidence exists for those claims. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/19/north-korea-promotes-traditional-medicines-in-bid-to-fight-covid-outbreak

49) Kim Jong-un buries mentor amid North Korea Covid crisis
Associated Press Mon 23 May 2022 06.26 BST

State media photos show Kim carrying Hyon Chol-hae’s coffin and throwing earth into his grave as country battles ‘fever’ cases amid Covid outbreak


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) carries Hyon Chol-hae’s casket during his funeral service in Pyongyang. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Kim Jong-un attended the funeral for a top North Korean official, state media reported on Monday, helping carry his coffin, as the country maintained the much-disputed claim that its coronavirus outbreak is subsiding.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Kim attended the funeral on Sunday of Hyon Chol-hae, a Korean People’s Army marshal who reportedly played a key role in grooming him as the country’s next leader before Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, died in late 2011.

State media photos showed a bare-faced Kim Jong-un carrying Hyon’s coffin with other men wearing masks before he threw earth to his grave at the national cemetery. They showed many soldiers clad in olive-green uniforms saluting while other officials dressed in dark suits stood at attention. (...)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/23/kim-jong-un-buries-mentor-amid-north-korea-covid-crisis

50) Ukraine invasion may be start of ‘third world war’, says George Soros
Larry Elliott Economics editor Tue 24 May 2022 19.24 BST

Veteran philanthropist tells World Economic Forum civilisation ‘may not survive’ what is coming

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to be the “beginning of the third world war” that could spell the end of civilisation, the veteran philanthropist and former financier George Soros has warned.

In a ferocious attack on Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Soros warned that autocratic regimes were in the ascendant and the global economy was heading for a depression.

Soros, who has become a hate figure for the hard right in the US, also heavily criticised the former German chancellor Angela Merkel for cosying up to Moscow and Beijing.

With the mood in Davos already downbeat due to the war in Ukraine, Soros ramped up the gloomy rhetoric to new heights.

“The invasion may have been the beginning of the third world war and our civilisation may not survive it,” he said.

“The invasion of Ukraine didn’t come out of the blue. The world has been increasingly engaged in a struggle between two systems of governance that are diametrically opposed to each other: open society and closed society.”

The 91-year-old former hedge fund owner said the tide had started to turn against open societies in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US in 2001. “Repressive regimes are now in the ascendant and open societies are under siege. Today China and Russia present the greatest threat to open society.”

Soros, who led the speculative financial attack that drove the pound out of the European exchange rate mechanism 30 years ago, said Europe had responded well to the crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion.

“It will take a long time to work out the details, but Europe seems to be moving in the right direction. It has responded to the invasion of Ukraine with greater speed, unity and vigour than ever before in its history.”

He added: “But Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels remains excessive, due largely to the mercantilist policies pursued by former chancellor Angela Merkel. She had made special deals with Russia for the supply of gas and made China Germany’s largest export market. That made Germany the best performing economy in Europe but now there is a heavy price to pay. Germany’s economy needs to be reoriented. And that will take a long time.”

Soros said Putin had won Xi’s agreement to the Russian invasion at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics in early February. But he insisted the Chinese leader was not as strong as he believed.

“Xi harbours a guilty secret. He never told the Chinese people that they had been inoculated with a vaccine that was designed for the original Wuhan variant and offers very little protection against new variants.”

Soros said Xi was unable to “come clean” because he was at a delicate moment in his career. “His second term in office expires in the fall of 2022 and he wants to be appointed to an unprecedented third term, eventually making him ruler for life.”

China’s lockdowns to combat Covid-19 had pushed the economy into freefall but Xi was unable to admit he had made a mistake, he said.

“Coming on top of the real estate crisis the damage will be so great that it will affect the global economy. With the disruption of supply chains, global inflation is liable to turn into global depression.”

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

Contrary to general expectations, Xi may not get his coveted third term because of the mistakes he had made, Soros predicted.

“While the war rages, the fight against climate change has to take second place. Yet the experts tell us that we have already fallen far behind, and climate change is on the verge of becoming irreversible. That could be the end of our civilisation.

“Therefore, we must mobilise all our resources to bring the war to an early end. The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilisation is to defeat Putin as soon as possible. That’s the bottom line.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/24/ukraine-invasion-may-be-start-of-third-world-war-says-george-soros

51) Pfizer to offer all its drugs not-for-profit to 45 lower-income countries
Julia Kollewe Wed 25 May 2022 16.04 BST

Company launches ‘healthier world’ accord in Davos and speaks to other pharma firms about similar steps


In Davos, George Poe Williams, a nurse from Liberia, stages a protest against the profits made by drugmakers. Photograph: Leo Hyde/Public Services International Global Union Federation

Pfizer has announced it is to supply all its current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines on a not-for-profit basis to 45 lower-income countries and is talking to other big drugmakers about similar steps.

Announcing an “accord for a healthier world” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, the New York-based pharma firm pledged to provide all its products that are available in the US and Europe on a cost basis to 1.2 billion people in all 27 low-income countries such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia, plus 18 lower-middle-income countries including Ghana.
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/25/pfizer-to-offer-low-cost-medicines-to-45-lower-income-countries

52) Shanghai’s full Covid lockdown ends after two months
Helen Davidson and Vincent Ni Tue 31 May 2022 17.19 BST

City of 25 million people emerges from prolonged isolation under ruthlessly enforced restrictions


Workers dismantle barriers at a residential area, as the city prepares to end its long Covid lockdown Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

Shanghai has lifted a painful two-month lockdown, to the relief of the city’s 25 million residents, with authorities dismantling fences around housing compounds and ripping police tape off public squares and buildings.

Most residents have spent the past two months under a ruthlessly enforced lockdown that has caused income losses, stress and despair for millions struggling to access food or emergency healthcare.

The prolonged isolation has fuelled public anger and rare protests inside China’s most populous metropolis and battered the city’s manufacturing and export-heavy economy, disrupting supply chains in China and around the world, and slowing international trade.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/31/shanghai-starts-to-dismantle-fences-as-covid-lockdown-due-to-end

53) Omicron subvariant drives spike in cases and deaths in Portugal
Philip Oltermann in Berlin and Sam Jones in Madrid Fri 3 Jun 2022 12.48 BST

Europe faces prospect of further Covid measures later in the year as share of Omicron BA.5 cases rise in Portugal and Germany


People wearing face masks ride the Gloria funicular in Lisbon. Photograph: Armando França/AP

A spike of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Portugal driven by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant in spite of warm temperatures is causing capitals across Europe to once again consider measures against a pandemic that has started to fade into public memory.

Portugal confirmed 26,848 new cases and recorded 47 Covid deaths on Wednesday – the highest daily death toll since 17 February, when 51 deaths from the disease were reported.

The trend contrasts with the pandemic situation in France, Germany, the UK and neighbouring Spain, where case rates have been declining for the last two months.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/03/omicron-covid-subvariant-drives-spike-in-cases-and-deaths-in-portgual

54) Japan to let in foreign tourists, but only if masked and accompanied by chaperone
Justin McCurry in Osaka Wed 8 Jun 2022 06.19 BST

Visitors from select countries will be allowed to return to Japan from Friday but will only be allowed to travel under strict conditions


Nikko shrine, Honshu, Tochigi Prefecture. Photograph: Christian Kober/Alamy

Foreign tourists visiting Japan will be required to wear masks and spend their entire stay chaperoned by local guides, as the country prepares to open up to international travellers after two years of Covid-19 border restrictions.

People who have waited patiently for the chance to visit Japan, which imposed some of the toughest travel restrictions during the pandemic, will also have to take out private medical insurance in case they contract the virus, the government said this week.

An important source of revenue before the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, tourism will look very different when limited numbers of people are permitted to enter Japan from Friday.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/08/japan-to-let-in-foreign-tourists-but-only-if-masked-and-accompanied-by-chaperone

55) Five Eyes must ramp up fight against rising organised crime, AFP commissioner warns
Daniel Hurst Wed 8 Jun 2022 18.30 BST

Pandemic has contributed to ‘destabilisation of world order’ leading to weaponisation of technology, Reece Kershaw says


Australian federal police commissioner Reece Kershaw says the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group has never been more important, with criminals ‘no longer bound by, or deterred by, state borders’. Photograph: matejmo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Australian federal police commissioner has urged his Five Eyes counterparts to ramp up the fight against organised crime, declaring the pandemic has fuelled “the destabilisation of the world order”.

Reece Kershaw issued a rallying call for closer coordination on law enforcement as he addressed colleagues from the US, Canada, the UK and New Zealand, who have been visiting Australia for talks since Monday.
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/09/five-eyes-must-ramp-up-fight-against-rising-organised-afp-commissioner-warns

56) Anthony Fauci tests positive for Covid with mild symptoms
Erum Salam Wed 15 Jun 2022 20.33 BST

Biden’s chief medical adviser received two booster shots and is working from home, says National Institutes of Health


Dr Anthony Fauci on Capitol Hill in May. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.

A statement issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said the doctor had mild symptoms and was vaccinated with two subsequent booster shots.

“Dr Fauci will isolate and continue to work from his home … Dr Fauci will follow the Covid-19 guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical advice from his physician and return to the NIH when he tests negative.”

Fauci, who is 81, has not recently been in close contact with Biden.

Under the Trump administration, Fauci was a lead member of the White House coronavirus taskforce. This is the first known positive Covid-19 result for the infectious disease expert.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/15/fauci-tests-positive-covid

57) Covid surges across Europe as experts warn not let guard down
Jon Henley Tue 21 Jun 2022 18.59 BST

Calls grow for greater measures against wave of BA.4 and BA.5 cases in countries from Spain to Denmark


Germany’s health minister is urging vulnerable people to get a fourth shot of the Covid vaccine and encouraging mask-wearing in enclosed spaces. Photograph: Michael Probst/AP

Multiple European countries are experiencing a significant surge in new Covid-19 infections, as experts warn that with almost all restrictions lifted and booster take-up often low, cases could soar throughout the summer leading to more deaths.

According to the Our World in Data scientific aggregator, the rolling seven-day average of confirmed new cases per million inhabitants is on the rise in countries including Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Portugal has experienced the most dramatic wave, with infections per million remaining at a seven-day average of 2,043 on Monday – the second highest new case rate in the world, although down somewhat from an early June high of 2,878.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/21/covid-surges-europe-ba4-ba5-cases

58) Covid: one in 10 in England told to work despite signs of infection
Tom Wall Sat 9 Jul 2022 13.45 BST

A TUC survey has revealed that employees who may have the virus have been ordered into the workplace by bosses


Workers in masks near the Bank of England in the City of London. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Nearly one in 10 workers with Covid symptoms are being pressured by managers to come into work, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has claimed, as a new wave of coronavirus infections and hospitalisations sweeps across the country.

Polling by the TUC reveals that 9% of employees displaying symptoms have been forced into workplaces, and, in the past 12 months, 10% have been asked to work alongside colleagues who had tested positive.

The survey, carried out in May, shows that only 29% of workers and 14% of disabled workers feel safe going to work since the government lifted the remaining legal protections in England in February, including the requirement for infected people to self-isolate and for employers to produce a specific Covid risk assessment.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/09/covid-one-in-10-in-england-told-to-work-despite-signs-of-infection

59) Number of UK Covid deaths passes 200,000, ONS data shows
Pamela Duncan and Caelainn Barr Wed 13 Jul 2022 16.06 BST

Figures show deaths per capita are above European average, at 2,689 per million people


The national Covid memorial wall opposite the Palace of Westminster in central London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

More than 200,000 Covid deaths have been recorded across the UK, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

There have been a total of 200,247 Covid deaths, including 294 in the last week. The figures cover deaths due to Covid-19 as well as those involving the virus.

More than 100,000 deaths were registered in the UK by early January 2021, less than a year into the pandemic. It has taken more than a year and a half for the death toll to double, with vaccination uptake, better understanding of how to treat the virus and social distancing measures all contributing to fewer deaths.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/13/number-of-uk-covid-deaths-passes-200000-ons-data
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