The country dropped nearly all of its Covid restrictions months ago. Apart from the Omicron variant – that took hold of the UK towards the end of 2021…reports Asian Lite News
Scientists in Britain have warned of another fresh Covid wave as the United Kingdom logged over 15,800 new cases on Tuesday. Last week, British health officials also expressed concerns that there were “early signs the country could be at the start of a new wave of infections driven by Omicron variants,” news agency AP reported Tuesday. The new BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant are said to be closer to the earlier, ‘more dangerous’ Alpha and Delta variants as against the highly transmissible but milder Omicron, The Independent, a UK media outlet, reported, citing experts.
Although hospitalisation rates have so far remained “very low,” UK’s fresh infections have been hovering above the 10,000-mark since June 12. In the week ending June 19, the UK recorded a 43 per cent increase in its fresh cases, AP reported. In a period of ten days (from June 12 to 21) the UK has recorded over 1.24 lakh new infections. This as the number of fresh cases globally went down by 3 per cent as per World Health Organisation. “There were 3.3 million new Covid-19 infections last week, marking a 4 per cent decrease, with more than 7,500 deaths. But cases jumped by about 6 per cent in Europe,” the global health body was quoted as saying.
The country dropped nearly all of its Covid restrictions months ago. Apart from the Omicron variant – that took hold of the UK towards the end of 2021, the experts are also attributing the spike to street parties, concerts and other festivities celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee earlier this month.
Elsewhere in Europe, France is already facing a new wave of Covid-19 infections fuelled by new variants of the disease, French vaccination chief Alain Fischer said as per Reuters, as daily new cases reached an almost two-month peak at more than 95,000 infections on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, researchers from Australia have also reported seven sequences of Delta x Omicron among the genomic sequences uploaded from the country…reports Asian Lite News
Britain has reported small clusters of recombinant Delta and Omicron variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Recombinant variants refer to new variants of the virus that are created by genetic mutations from two different variants.
On 11 February, the UK Health Security Agency added “Delta x Omicron Recombinant (UK)” under the list of Covid-19 variants being monitored and investigated.
Meanwhile, researchers from Australia have also reported seven sequences of Delta x Omicron among the genomic sequences uploaded from the country.
Recombination can occur when two variants infect the same host cell. Exchange of genetic material between Covid variants occurs because of the way that RNA viruses copy genomes. During replication, the enzyme that the viruses use for replication can end up stitching together bits from different variants.
Delta x Omicron is not the same as Deltacron, reported by a team of researchers in Cyprus. While a series of news reports in January claimed that Deltacron was a new variant, virologists globally refuted the scientific validity of the claim. Analysis of the sequences later indicated that Deltacron was just a contaminated sample and not a variant by itself.
Vinod Scaria, a researcher at CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) in Delhi, explained in a thread on microblogging site Twitter that Delta x Omicron recombinants do exist but they are not called Deltacron.
“(There is) nothing to suggest at this moment that these recombinants have any additional advantage compared to omicron. More epidemiological data is being awaited as more genomes get reported from across the world,” Scaria said.
He also noted that while recombinations in SARS-COV-2 are not as frequent as seen in influenza viruses, there have been multiple recombination events reported in the Covid pandemic. For example, some previously named lineages include XA, XB and XC, Scaria said.
He added that more epidemiological data is being awaited as more genomes get reported from across the world.
He urged the community to avail the facility of free tele-medical consultations arranged by IDF in multiple Indian languages. The symposium featured specialist Indian medical doctors working at reputed healthcare institutions in Kuwait…reports Asian Lite News
A symposium to generate awareness on combating Covid 19 variants was organized by the Embassy of India in Kuwait, in association with the Indian Doctors’ Forum (IDF), Kuwait on January 22. Ambassador of India to Kuwait HE Shri Sibi George inaugurated the event. In his address Ambassador spoke about India-Kuwait partnership in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted the importance of adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines by each and every one of the Indian nationals in Kuwait.
Ambassador said that the Embassy will organize all its various events including the forthcoming Republic Day celebrations virtually only till the Covid situation improves. Ambassador thanked IDF for being in the forefront of fight against the pandemic in Kuwait, for working closely with the Embassy in many activities such as dedicated seminars, awareness campaigns, roundtable discussions to educate people about COVID-19, and also for conducting medical camps and free medical tele consultations.
Ambassador said that India is facing the Covid situation with great fortitude and resilience adding that a year from the date of launch of the World’s largest vaccine campaign, India successfully administered 160 crore (1.6 billion) COVID vaccine doses, an unparalleled global feat. He added that while India successfully fights this pandemic domestically, it continues to be at the forefront of the global fight against COVID in line with its civilizational ethos. He mentioned that India recently supplied the third batch of medical assistance consisting of two tons of essential lifesaving medicines to Afghanistan adding that India had earlier supplied 500,000 doses of COVID 19 vaccine and 1.6 tons of medical assistance to Afghanistan through WHO.
President of IDF Dr. Amir Ahmed introduced the panelists and reiterated the role being played by IDF to help the community in its fight against the pandemic. He urged the community to avail the facility of free tele-medical consultations arranged by IDF in multiple Indian languages. The symposium featured specialist Indian medical doctors working at reputed healthcare institutions in Kuwait. The discussion was moderated by Dr P Shankar Narayanan Menon.
Other panelists included Dr Arijit Chattopadhyay, DrSarojBala Grover, DrVarkey Alexander and Dr Shanthi Alexander, who presented various aspects of the pandemic and answered the questions from the public. The discussion generated a tremendous response with hundreds of people from different walks of life in Kuwait participating virtually. The symposium provided a unique opportunity for participants to listen to expert healthcare professionals providing much needed insights on the evolving developments related to the ongoing pandemic, learning about the risk factors and getting expert advice on the precautions that were needed to be taken.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid had said the government is awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on the roll out of the booster dose…reports Asian Lite News.
Even as the UK government is planning to give a third Covid vaccine shot to everyone above 50 years of age from next month, scientists confirm that the autumn booster dose will be an effective way to protect people from existing, and potentially future, variants of concern.
The team of experts at the University of Nottingham found that neutralising antibodies generated by a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine were less effective at neutralising key variants of concern, for example the beta (first identified in South Africa) variant.
However, the second dose, especially in those volunteers who had previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2, dramatically increased virus variant neutralising antibody responses (and therefore potential protection) to a level comparable to those seen for the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
This suggests that an additional boost, even using vaccines containing the original strain of coronavirus, will increase protection against variants of concern, revealed the findings published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“We showed that the individuals with past infection produced more antibodies following each dose of vaccine than those who hadn’t been exposed. We also showed that this increased antibody response was more effective against some of the variants of concern, such as the Beta and Gamma variants,” said Professor Jonathan Ball from the School of Life Sciences at the University.
“In essence, natural infection has mimicked the effects of an additional vaccine dose, and our data clearly shows that this additional antigenic exposure produces an extra boost to the overall virus-killing antibody response that is more effective against variants of concern. Our results support the UK Government’s plan to provide a booster jab in the autumn as an effective strategy in protecting people against these variants,” he added.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid had said the government is awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on the roll out of the booster dose, which will be administered along with flu a jab, the Evening Standard reported on Wednesday.
The booster dose will be prioritised for people who received the Covid shots when the vaccination programmes were first rolled out last December, Javid said.
Meanwhile, the UK government on Tuesday also announced that 75 per cent of adults in the country have received both doses of a Covid-19 jab, while about 47 million people have received their first dose, the Financial Times reported. However, nearly 6 million adults — roughly one in 10 of the over-18 population — remain completely unvaccinated, official statistics showed.
However, he said the number of people who have been vaccinated in the UK meant this wave would probably take longer to emerge than the previous ones…reporrts Asian Lite News.
The UK is in the early stages of a third wave of Covid-19, a scientist advising the UK government said, media reports said on Monday.
The B1617 variant, which was first detected in India in October 2020, had fuelled “exponential growth” and is responsible for at least three-quarters of cases in the UK, Ravi Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge, was quoted as saying by the BBC.
“Of course the number of cases is relatively low at the moment — all waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so the key here is that what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave,” Gupta told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
However, he said the number of people who have been vaccinated in the UK meant this wave would probably take longer to emerge than the previous ones.
“There may be a false sense of security for some time, and that’s our concern,” he noted, suggesting that ending Covid restrictions in the UK on June 21 should be postponed.
It should be delayed “by a few weeks while we gather more intelligence”, said Gupta, a member of the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).
The concern was echoed by other experts who said that the B1617 variant could “pick up speed and become a big problem” in the UK as the country further eases lockdown measures.
The UK’s fight against coronavirus could turn bad “very, very quickly” unless the government acts cautiously on easing lockdown further, Xinhua news agency quoted Tim Gowers from the University of Cambridge telling the Guardian on Saturday.
Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also warned that the B1617 variant is “clearly more transmissible”.
“We need to be reassured that we’re in a very different position now in that we’ve got a highly vaccinated population and we just need to continue moving at speed,” he told the BBC on Saturday.
“We do know that with this particular variant, you do need two doses to offer complete protection, and so we’re very, very keen to make sure that all those, particularly higher risk groups, over 50 years of age and those with underlying illness, receive their second vaccination as soon as feasible,” Harnden said.
The final stage of the government’s roadmap for lifting lockdown, which would remove all limits on how many people you can meet – either indoors or outdoors, is due no earlier than June 21.
On Sunday, the UK reported more than 3,000 new Covid infections for a fifth day in a row. Prior to this, the UK had not surpassed that number since April 12, the BBC report said.
India had broken its own record of Covid deaths on Wednesday with 4,529 deaths — the highest number of fatalities from Covid infection so far, reports Asian Lite News
After recording over 4,000 deaths in the last four days, India on Thursday witnessed a decline in number of fatalities due to Covid-19. The country reported 3,874 deaths due to the virus infection, according to the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry.
In the same time span, India recorded 2,76,110 new cases.
India had broken its own previous record of Covid deaths on Wednesday with 4,529 deaths — the highest number of fatalities from Covid infection so far.
On Tuesday, India recorded 2.63 lakh fresh cases, lowest since April 21. Fresh Covid cases came down below the three lakh-mark for the first time on May 17. On May 7, the country had recorded its highest ever cases of 4,14,188.
India’s overall tally of Covid-19 cases now stands at 2,57,72,440 with 31,29,878 active cases and 2,87,122 deaths so far.
According to the Health Ministry, a total of 3,69,077 people have been discharged in the last 24 hours, with 2,23,55,440 being cured from Covid till date.
The Health Ministry said that a total of 18,70,09,792 people have been vaccinated so far in the country, including 11,66,090 who were administered vaccines in the last 24 hours.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 32,23,56,187 samples have been tested up to May 19 for Covid-19. Of these 20,55,010 samples were tested on Wednesday, which is the highest so far.
Govt assures vax for all adults by year-end
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan applauding the dedication and patience shown by the states in their fight against the pandemic and in simultaneously ensuring the welfare of the people, he said: “We fought together in 2020 and will fight together in 2021 under the leadership of the Prime Minister.”
Underscoring the critical importance of vaccination drive, he said that by the end of the year, the country will be in a position to vaccinate at least all of its adult population.
Highlighting the critical challenges faced by the NE states and West Bengal, he noted that in Mizoram, all districts are showing a rise in new cases, Nagaland has shown a sharp increase in daily cases (from 15-20 per day to 300) and weekly positivity rate (one per cent to 34 per cent), in Assam, Kamrup (Metropolitan) district is contributing almost 45 per cent of the daily new cases, while in Meghalaya, East Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi districts are also reporting sharp increases in daily cases.
Also, Manipur’s recovery rate of 78 per cent and CFR of more than one per cent was highlighted as a matter of concern, while Sikkim was advised to strengthen community surveillance and ensure strict monitoring of home quarantine to address its high CFR.
In Arunachal Pradesh, ICU occupancy is almost 22.5 per cent while Capital complex and Changlang districts are reporting maximum cases.
Lucknow Eidgah to turn into vax centre
The Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow will turn into a Covid-19 vaccination centre from Thursday, marking the first time that a religious place will double up as a facility where people can get inoculated against the virus.
A dry run of the vaccination process was carried out at the Eidgah on Wednesday.
People from all age groups, starting from 18 years, will get vaccinated at the campus of the biggest Eidgah in the city from noon on Thursday.
Jabs will only be administered to those who have registered online and walk-in vaccination will not be entertained.
Officials of the Islamic Centre of India, that is housed within the Eidgah complex, will be helping people with their online registrations.
Eidgah spoke sperson Maulana Sufiyan Nizami, said: “The capacity at the centre for beneficiaries between 18 and 44 years of age is 150 a day and for those above 44 years of age, is 250 a day. Vaccination will however depend on registrations made in advance and people can select the Eidgah as their choice of centre on the online CoWin portal.”
“We want to make sure that we take all the prudential, all the cautious steps now that we could take,” Johnson was quoted as saying to Sky News…reports Asian Lite News.
The UK government has decided to shorten the gap between the first and second dose of covid vaccines amid concerns about the spread of the B.1.617 variant of the virus that originated in India.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those aged over 50 and those considered clinically vulnerable will be able to get a second vaccine dose after eight weeks. Earlier, it was 12 weeks window.
This development comes just a day after government of India decided to extend the interval between two doses of Covid-19 vaccine – Covishield – to 12 weeks. Earlier, it was six weeks window.
“We have seen larger clusters of the B.1.617 variant first observed in India since last Monday. We believe this variant is more transmissible than the previous one. But we don’t know by how much. We will accelerate vaccination to those over 50 and those who are clinically vulnerable right across the country so that doses come 8 weeks after the first dose,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson sauid during a press conference.
He said that his country is “anxious” about the coronavirus variant detected in India and the government is “ruling nothing out” to tackle its spread.
“We want to make sure that we take all the prudential, all the cautious steps now that we could take,” Johnson was quoted as saying to Sky News.
Scientists have raised concerns that the current vaccines may be less effective against the new variants.
The consortium of scientists studying new variants in the country, COG-UK, has identified a total of 1,723 cases of the Indian variant known as B1617.2.
Although some of these will be duplicates, it is more than triple Public Health England’s confirmed figure last week of 520, according to Sky News.
The Prime Minister said he “can see nothing that dissuades me from thinking we’ll be able to go ahead on Monday and indeed on June 21 everywhere” in terms of easing coronavirus restrictions in England.
“I think we have to wait a little bit longer to see how the data is looking but I am cautiously optimistic about that and provided this Indian variant doesn’t take off in the way some people fear, I think certainly things could get back much, much closer to normality,” he said.
From today, pubs, bars and restaurants in England are permitted to open indoors, while indoor entertainment will also resume, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas.
People in England will be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 people, and meet indoors in groups of up to six or as two households.
Meanwhile, all remaining accommodation including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can also reopen, according to Johnson.
Two of these triple-mutant varieties have been found in samples collected from Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh.
As the second Covid wave ravages India with a vengeance, the death rate is alarmingly growing and thousands of asymptomatic patients are fast transmitting the highly infectious strains which could put the entire nation to a halt sooner than expected if not controlled, experts warned on Saturday.
The threat of double and now a triple-mutant Indian strain, along with the deadly UK variant, are believed to be behind the latest surge across the country.
According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), over 400 cases of the UK strain and 76 of the Indian double mutants have been found in Delhi alone and nearly 11 percent samples from across the country show variants of concern.
To date, 1,644 cases of the UK strain have been found in India, along with 112 cases of the South African strain, one of the Brazilian strains, and 732 cases of the double mutant that emerged in the country.
“The UK strain directly correlates to the Delhi surge. Both the UK variant and B1617 (double mutation) are present. The scenario is still unfolding. If we co-relate with the surge, I think it directly correlates with the type of variant we’re observing,” informed Sujeet Kumar Singh, Director, NCDC, during a webinar on Friday.
The B1617 variant, first detected in Maharashtra, contains mutations from two separate virus variants — E484Q and L452R. The third mutation evolved from the double mutation where three different Covid strains combined to form a new variant.
Two of these triple-mutant varieties have been found in samples collected from Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh.
“No doubt that the second wave looks more dangerous than the first one in India. The mutant virus is more infectious and more virulent, causing widespread infection and disease leading to more mortality and morbidity,” Dr V Ramana Prasad, Senior Pulmonologist, KIMS hospital Hyderabad, told.
The RNA virus has the potential to acquire mutations as it replicates and spreads. These mutations can, sometimes, result in virus variants with better adaptability to its environment.
While the SARS-CoV2, causing the Covid-19 infections, has evolved at a much slower rate compared to Influenza or HIV viruses but as the number of infections rises, the country is observing a rapid emergence of numerous viral variants.
With the increase in the number of infections and spread, there are more opportunities for the virus to mutate.
According to Dr Sumant Mantri, Senior Consultant Pulmonologist at Apollo Hospital, Bengaluru, the new strains are more infectious.
“Lot of asymptomatic patients transmitting the virus. People have become complacent about wearing masks and maintaining social distancing which has led to this surge,” Mantri told.
A total of 3,46,786 Covid cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, and 2,624 deaths, the highest single-day deaths so far in the country, according to the health ministry’s reports on Saturday.
India registered over 2,000 deaths for the fourth consecutive day with the highest spike in single-day deaths.
A total of 1,89,544 have lost their lives due to Covid-19 in India since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
As of Saturday afternoon, Canada reported 5,986 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the cumulative total to 1,051,246, including 23,282 deaths…reports Asian Lite News
The rapid spread of more contagious Covid-19 variants is believed to have driven a devastating third wave in Canada.
As of Saturday afternoon, a total of 30,108 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 28,624 B.1.1.7 variants, 1,133 P.1 variants and 351 B.1.351 variants, according to CTV.
As of Saturday afternoon, Canada reported 5,986 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the cumulative total to 1,051,246, including 23,282 deaths, according to CTV.
“Although B.1.1.7, which is now confirmed in all provinces and two territories, continues to account for the majority of variants of concern in Canada and has likely replaced the original virus in some areas, there has been a concerning rise in P.1 cases in recent weeks,” Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement on Saturday, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Early evidence suggests that the P.1 variant may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control its spread,” Tam added in the statement.
The number of confirmed variant cases in Canada has skyrocketed in recent weeks, rising from about 2,000 a month ago to over 30,000 as of Saturday afternoon and counting, with more than 90 per cent of those being the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Britain.
The P1 variant first discovered in Brazil is also on the rise in Canada, with cases increasing to more than 1,100 as of Saturday afternoon, mostly in the populous provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.
Meanwhile, the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa is also picking up steam, with more than 350 cases identified in the country.
“The race between the vaccine and the variants is at a critical point,” Tam said. “It is clear that we need stronger control to combat variants of concern that are driving rapid epidemic growth in many areas of the country.”
Younger Canadians are being impacted harder in the third wave, Tam said, with infection rates highest among those aged 20 to 39 and a rise in the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions in those under 60.
The fact is Canada’s third wave of Covid-19 is showing no signs of slowing down as the vaccine rollout gradually ramps up, meaning Canadians need to buckle down until more of us get a shot, Canadian experts said.
They added that Canada’s slower vaccine rollout means our third wave could last into June.
Altogether, 7,569,321 vaccine doses have been administered as of Friday, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
For the study, the research team looked at the effectiveness of the vaccine against the original viral strain, the UK and the South African variants, as well as strains that harbour combined changes in the viral spike…reports Asian Lite News
The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is moderately less effective against the South African variant, suggests a study.
The findings, published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, showed that the vaccine is effective against the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and the UK variant, but provides weakened protection against the South African variant and the combined UK-South African variants.
“Our findings show that future variants could necessitate a modified vaccine as the virus mutates to increase its infectivity,” said researcher Ran Taubea from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
For the study, the research team looked at the effectiveness of the vaccine against the original viral strain, the UK and the South African variants, as well as strains that harbour combined changes in the viral spike.
They are continuing to test other circulating variants as they constantly emerge with the hope to identify potentially risky mutations that can compromise the vaccine, the study indicated.
The research team also compared neutralising antibody levels following administration of one and two doses of the vaccine, as opposed to levels in patients that have recovered from Covid-19.A
The team found that vaccination provided optimal levels of protection, when compared to the lower levels of protection that were observed in recovered patients.
A recent study, published in the journal Nature, also indicated that Covid-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech significantly appear less effective against the Covid variant that first emerged in South Africa. Also read:EU warns of vaccine export curbs