-Top News China COVID-19

Nearly a million in lockdown in Wuhan

Of the four cases, two were reported 48 hours ago as a result of regular testing, which was quickly followed by the third and fourth via contact tracing…reports Asian Lite News

Nearly a million people in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province where the Covid-19 pandemic was first recorded, have been placed under a lockdown after four asymptomatic cases were detected, the media reported on Thursday.

According to a BBC report, the lockdown has been imposed in the city’s Jiangxia district and the residents have been asked to stay inside their homes or compounds for three days.

Of the four cases, two were reported 48 hours ago as a result of regular testing, which was quickly followed by the third and fourth via contact tracing, the report said.

Soon after, the city’s authorities imposed the lockdown.

Wuhan, a city of 12 million people, became popular across the world as the first place where scientists detected the Covid-19. It was also the first city to be put under harsh restrictive measures as the global pandemic broke out in early 2020.

A staff member helps a villager disinfect baggage when he returns to Lianqin Village of Beicai Town in Pudong New Area, east China’s Shanghai, April 26, 2022. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang/IANS)

Earlier this week, scientists said there was “compelling evidence” that Wuhan’s Huanan seafood and wildlife market was at the centre of the Covid outbreak, says the BBC report.

Two peer-reviewed studies have re-examined information from the initial outbreak in the city.

Meanwhile, China has adopted a “zero Covid-19” strategy under which authorities conduct mass testing, declare strict isolation rules and impose local lockdowns.

In June, Shanghai emerged from a strict two-month lockdown, but residents are still adapting to a “new normal” of frequent mass testing, the BBC report adds.

As of Thursday morning, China has reported a total of 2,167,619 confirmed Covid cases and 14,647 deaths.

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-Top News USA

US reports 6 million child Covid-19 cases in 2022

More than 13.9 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic….reports Asian Lite News

More than six million child Covid-19 cases have been reported in the US in 2022, with nearly 287,000 cases added in the past four weeks, according to the latest report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association.

Child Covid-19 cases in the US are far higher as compared to that in 2021. There is an urgent need to collect more age-specific data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as potential longer-term effects, said the AAP in the report released on Monday.

“It is important to recognise there are immediate effects of the pandemic on children’s health, but importantly we need to identify and address the long-lasting impacts on the physical, mental and social well-being of this generation of children and youth,” the AAP added as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

More than 13.9 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

Recently, a study led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that a second booster shot significantly improved effectiveness against widespread variants Omicron BA.1 and BA.2/BA.2.12.1.

All variants of Omicron are known to evade both vaccine induced immunity as well as those derived from prior infections.

With the first booster, vaccine effectiveness against these variants was only 68 per cent (lower than against previous variants) and declined to 52 per cent effectiveness after six months.

With the second vaccine, effectiveness against BA.1 and BA.2/BA.2.12.1 variants climbed to 80 per cent within the first six months, according to the study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

However, data is not yet available for effectiveness after six months, the researchers said.

“The findings of this study are important because they provide an answer to a question that many people are asking: Should I get the second booster shot? The data clearly show that a second booster significantly increases vaccine effectiveness against these variants-which while no longer dominant in many areas, are still present,” said Shaun Grannis, vice president for data and analytics at Regenstrief Institute and professor of family medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.

“As we go into the fall, when viruses typically pick up, we want to encourage people who are eligible for a second booster to be proactive and to strongly consider getting one because it will provide greater protection. It will reduce the need for Covid-19-related emergency department visits and hospitalisations,” Grannis said.

Current CDC recommendations for a second booster (fourth shot of the vaccine) are for people 50 and older as well as for moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals who are 12 and older.

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-Top News Asia News

Lanka: Citizens urged to take 4th jab

The vaccines can be obtained at all state hospitals, medical offices of health, and stipulated vaccination centres…reports Asian Lite News

Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry has urged the people to take the fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine given the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant.

Director General of Health Services Asela Gunawardena on Monday said that more than 95 per cent of the people have received their second dose of the vaccine, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, a significantly lower percentage of the people have taken the third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, he added.

Taking four doses of the vaccine minimised the risk of contracting the virus and in case of infection, the severity of the disease will also be lower, the Health official said.

The vaccines can be obtained at all state hospitals, medical offices of health, and stipulated vaccination centres, Gunawardena added.

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Arab News COVID-19

Israel reports 11 new monkeypox cases

The number of monkeypox cases in Israel rose to 66 with 11 new cases reported, the state’s Health Ministry has said…reports Asian Lite News

In addition to the vaccines that have already been used in the country, Israel is purchasing third-generation vaccines against the virus, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the ministry.

It called again on the residents to see a doctor if they developed a fever, blistering rash, or were near a person suspected of being infected with the virus.

An upcoming shipment from the Danish manufacturer Bavarian Nordic is expected to include 2,000 vaccine doses, which will be enough to vaccinate 1,000 people, according to the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

ALSO READ:Israel Ministry announces Covid-19 vaccination for kids under 5

Monkeypox is common in wild animals like rodents and primates, and humans can also get infected with the virus.

Symptoms include skin rashes, fever, headache, muscle ache, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

The rash eventually forms a scab, which later will fall off, indicating that the person is no longer infectious.

-Top News World World News

Covid-19 nowhere near over, warns WHO

Last Friday, the WHO’s Emergency Committee concluded that the virus remains a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and warned of several interlinked challenges….reports Asian Lite News

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is “nowhere near over” as the number of new cases worldwide has risen by 30 per cent in the last two weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

“I am concerned that cases of Covid-19 continue to rise — putting further pressure on stretched health systems and health workers. I am also concerned about the increasing trend of deaths,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists here on Tuesday, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, the recent increase in the number of newly reported Covid-19 cases has been largely driven by Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, and by the lifting of public health and social measures. Recent changes in testing policies have also been hindering the detection of new cases and the monitoring of the evolution of the virus, he said.

Global Covid caseload tops 526 mn

Last Friday, the WHO’s Emergency Committee concluded that the virus remains a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and warned of several interlinked challenges.

For instance, though Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 continue to drive the new waves of infections, hospitalizations and deaths around the world, surveillance – including testing and sequencing — has dropped significantly, making it increasingly difficult to assess the impact of variants on transmission and the effectiveness of countermeasures.

“New waves of the virus demonstrate again that Covid-19 is nowhere near over, and the virus is running freely and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden based on their capacity,” Tedros said.

He urged governments to deploy tried and tested measures like masking, improved ventilation and test and treat protocols, while regularly reviewing and adjusting Covid-19 response plans based on the current epidemiology and also the potential for new variants to appear.

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-Top News USA

US faces new threat of Omicron subvariants

BA.5 became the dominant variant in the US, making up about 54 per cent of new cases in the week ending July 2…reports Asian Lite News

The latest and most contagious versions of Omicron subvariants, known as BA.5 and BA.4, have accounted for more than 70 per cent of new Covid-19 infections in the US, leading to new surge in cases and hospitalisations nationwide.

BA.5 became the dominant variant in the US, making up about 54 per cent of new cases in the week ending July 2, according to data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Another highly transmissible subvariant, BA.4, made up about 17 per cent more, Xinhua news agency reported.

The two subvariants are more contagious than earlier variants of Omicron, and also appear to evade protection from vaccines and previous infections more easily than most of their predecessors, according to health experts.

“These new variants could indeed pose threats to existing protection from previous infections or vaccines. There are many uncertainties,” Jeffrey Sachs, Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

David Montefiori, a professor at the Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University Medical Center, estimated that BA.4 and BA.5 are about three times less sensitive to neutralising antibodies from existing Covid vaccines than the original version of the Omicron variant, BA.1.

Other research suggested that BA.4 and BA.5 are four times more resistant to antibodies from vaccines than BA.2, which replaced the Omicron variant as the dominant version of the coronavirus in the US in April.

Bob Wachter, Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said BA.5 manages to at least partially sidestep some of the immunity people may have from prior infections and vaccinations.

“Cases are already rising again in the US, and could rise substantially later this summer or in the fall, when there is a return to offices, schools and other indoor facilities,” Sachs told Xinhua.

The country is now averaging about 106,000 new Covid-19 cases and 300 new deaths each day, according to CDC data.

But experts believe the CDC case counts tremendously underestimated the true numbers because some people are no longer getting tested, and some others are testing at home and not reporting the results.

“I think that we will see increased BA.5 activity, hopefully without substantial increases in hospitalisation or death,” Stanley Perlman, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa, told Xinhua.

“We are still far from over this pandemic. We need intensified global cooperation, most importantly between the US, China and European Union, to ensure that all of the world takes appropriate control measures and has the necessary access to diagnostics, drugs, vaccines and other necessary control technologies,” Sachs told Xinhua.

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Arab News

Israel Ministry announces Covid-19 vaccination for kids under 5

The Israeli Ministry of Health has announced in a statement that it has allowed the administration of Covid-19 vaccines to children and toddlers aged six months to five years…reports Asian Lite News

The announcement came after the ministry’s Director General Nachman Ash accepted a recommendation by a panel of experts given last week to allow vaccination at these ages, Xinhua news agency reported.

All the panel members opined that the vaccine has a high safety profile, the ministry noted.

The ministry will update on the availability of vaccines for children under five years old at the health maintenance organizations (HMOs) clinics across the country in the coming weeks, it added.

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The vaccine is especially recommended for children at risk of severe Covid-19 illness due to underlying health conditions that impair the immune system, the ministry noted.

Israel has lowered the minimum eligibility age for vaccination from 12 to five years in November 2021. Since then, 22.8 per cent of about one million children aged five to 11 in Israel have been vaccinated, according to the ministry’s data.

-Top News USA

Omicron variants: US FDA backs Covid boosters

The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants, currently driving the fresh wave of Covid cases globally, are known to evade vaccine induced immunity….repors Asian Lite News

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended vaccine manufacturers to develop booster shots against Covid-19 targeting Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.

While currently available vaccines have helped reduce hospitalisation and death caused by Covid, results from several observational studies have shown that effectiveness of primary vaccination wanes over time against certain variants, including Omicron.

The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants, currently driving the fresh wave of Covid cases globally, are known to evade vaccine induced immunity.

The FDA recommendation is based on the advice of independent experts on the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee that voted in favour of including a SARS-CoV-2 Omicron component in Covid-19 vaccines that would be used for boosters in the US beginning in September.

“As we move into the fall and winter, it is critical that we have safe and effective vaccine boosters that can provide protection against circulating and emerging variants to prevent the most severe consequences of Covid-19,” said Peter Marks, Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement on Thursday.

“We have advised manufacturers seeking to update their Covid-19 vaccines that they should develop modified vaccines that add an Omicron BA.4/5 spike protein component to the current vaccine composition to create a two component (bivalent) booster vaccine, so that the modified vaccines can potentially be used starting in early to mid-fall 2022,” he added.

The FDA, however, has not advised manufacturers to change the vaccine for primary vaccination, since it provides a base of protection against serious outcomes of Covid-19 caused by circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2.

Vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have already been testing Omicron-targeted versions of their shots.

Their early data, based on the BA.1 variant, promises a stronger immune response to the Omicron variant than existing shots.

The FDA advised the drugmakers to conduct additional clinical trials on BA.4 and BA.5 shots, as well as send in data from the BA.1 shots to the agency for evaluation.

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India News

COVID-19 surges in 14 states

Central government has urged states reporting surge in cases to focus on sentinel surveillance, caution, and continuous alertness for early detection and reporting of cases….reports Asian Lite News

The Centre on Tuesday reviewed the status of Covid situation with 14 such states that are reporting high number of cases on a week-to-week basis, along with increased case positivity, combined with low numbers of COVID tests and below average Covid vaccination.

In the review meeting held over video-conferencing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan advised states reporting surge in cases to focus on sentinel surveillance, caution, and continuous alertness for early detection and reporting of cases.

NITI Aayog’s Member, Health, Dr V.K. Paul, who was also present at the review meeting, advised states reporting spike in the infection to be watchful of the emerging pandemic situation.

“The major action point is to focus on strengthening proactive surveillance as per the Revised Surveillance Strategy issued by Union Health Ministry on June 9,” he said, adding that the routine surveillance constitutes the steel frame of Covid response and management strategy and needs continuous and unstinted attention.

The four-fold strategy highlights surveillance of incoming inter-national travellers, community-based surveillance, sentinel site surveillance (health facility-based surveillance and lab-based surveillance), and whole genome sequencing, he said.

States were advised to scan for and report all SARI and ILI cases from all district hospitals, major private hospitals and medical colleges across the districts, and keep a close watch on those geographies where these clusters are emerging.

They were also strongly advised to strictly monitor epidemiological profile of admitted Covid patients and report the clinical manifestation to the Health Ministry, rather than a random or anecdotal reporting which will help to identify at an early stage any out-of-the-ordinary or different clinical presentation of the patients.

Noting that the uptake in second and precaution doses in many states reporting the present surge was low, they were advised to rapidly accelerate the vaccination coverage especially of the 60+ elderly population, and second dose among 12-17 population group.

Dr Paul and the Union Health Secretary both highlighted the low level of Covid testing across the states, and drop in RT-PCR share. Instead of a thin and wide testing spectrum, states were advised to focus on strategic testing of patients coming to fever clinics, SARI and ILI patients,along with new clusters and geographies in all districts reporting higher positivity.

In addition, states were reminded to undertake of Whole Genome Sequencing through the mapped labs of INSACOG network as per the Revised Surveillance Strategy of Union Health Ministry, which has already been shared with the states.

ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava, AIIMS, New Delhi, Director Dr. Randip Guleria, Health Minister’s Additional Secretary Dr Manohar Agnani, and other top officials were present in the meeting.

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Africa News COVID-19

Africa’s Covid-19 cases pass 11.77 mn

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Africa reached 11,770,537 as of Sunday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said…reports Asian Lite News

The Africa CDC, the specialised healthcare agency of the African Union, said the death toll from the pandemic across the continent stands at 253,994, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some 11,207,766 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease so far, according to the Africa CDC data.

South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are among the countries with the most cases in the continent, according to the agency.

ALSO READ:Africa’s Covid-19 cases surpass 11.74 mn: Africa CDC

South Africa has recorded the most Covid-19 cases in Africa with 3,991,944, while the northern African country Morocco reported 1,202,461 cases as of Sunday evening, it was noted.

In terms of the caseload, southern Africa is the most affected region, followed by the northern and eastern parts of the continent, while central Africa is the least affected region in the continent, according to the Africa CDC.