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China faces biggest Delta outbreak as infections grow in northeastern city

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China is battling its biggest COVID-19 outbreak caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant, with some areas restricting entry by people from a northeastern city where infections have grown faster than elsewhere in the country in the past week.

A total of 1,308 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms were reported in the mainland between Oct. 17 and Nov. 14, surpassing the 1,280 local cases from a summer Delta outbreak, Reuters calculations based on official data showed.

This marks China’s most widespread Delta outbreak, which has affected 21 provinces, regions and municipalities. It is smaller than many outbreaks in other countries but authorities in China are anxious to block the transmission under the government’s zero-tolerance guidance.

A dozen province-level regions contained their flare-ups within weeks, thanks to quick implementation of a complex set of curbs, including rigorous contact tracing, multiple rounds of testing of people in at risk areas, the closure of entertainment and cultural venues and restrictions on tourism and public transport.

However, the northeastern city of Dalian is locked in a struggle with the virus, Wu Liangyou, an official at the National Health Commission, told a Saturday news briefing.

Since Dalian’s first local symptomatic patients from the latest outbreak was reported on Nov. 4, the city of 7.5 million people has detected an average of about 24 new local cases a day, more than any other Chinese cities, according to Reuters calculation.

A few cities near Dalian, including Dandong, Anshan and Shenyang, have said that people arriving from Dalian had to be quarantined at centralised facilities for 14 days before they can move freely.

As of Nov. 14, mainland China had reported 98,315 confirmed coronavirus cases with symptoms, including domestically transmitted infections and those from overseas. There have been 4,636 deaths.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211115/china-faces-biggest-delta-outbreak-as-infections-grow-in-northeastern-city/64151.html

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Rich countries’ access to foreign nurses during Omicron raises ethical concerns: group

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The Omicron-fuelled wave of COVID-19 infections has led wealthy countries to intensify their recruitment of nurses from poorer parts of the world, worsening dire staffing shortages in overstretched workforces there, the International Council of Nurses said.

Sickness, burnout and staff departures amid surging Omicron cases have driven absentee rates to levels not yet seen during the two-year pandemic, said Howard Catton, CEO of the Geneva-based group that represents 27 million nurses and 130 national organisations.

To plug the gap, Western countries have responded by hiring army personnel as well as volunteers and retirees but many have also stepped up international recruitment as part of a trend that is worsening health inequity, he continued.

“We have absolutely seen an increase in international recruitment to places like the UK, Germany, Canada and the United States,” Catton said in a Reuters interview based on a report he co-authored on COVID-19 and the global nursing force.

“I really fear this ‘quick fix solution’ – it’s a bit similar to what we’ve been seeing with PPE (personal protective equipment) and vaccines where rich countries have used their economic might to buy and to hoard – if they do that with the nursing workforce it will just make the inequity even worse.”

Even before the pandemic there was a global shortage of 6 million nurses, with nearly 90% of those shortages in low and lower-middle-income countries, according to ICN data.

Some of the recent recruits to rich countries have come from sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, and parts of the Caribbean, Catton said, saying that nurses were often motivated by higher salaries and better terms than at home.

The ICN report said this process was also being facilitated by giving nurses preferred immigration status.

“The bottom line is that some people would look at this and say this is rich countries offloading the costs of educating new nurses and health workers,” he said.

Even wealthy countries will struggle to cope with the “mountains of backlog of unmet care” when the pandemic winds down, Catton warned, calling for more investment and a ten-year plan to strengthen the workforce.

“We need a coordinated, collaborative, concerted global effort which is underpinned by serious investment, not just warm words and platitudes and applause,” he said. 

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20220124/rich-countries-access-to-foreign-nurses-during-omicron-raises-ethical-concerns-group/65392.html

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Fourth COVID vaccine shot raises resistance to serious illness for over-60s: Israel

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JERUSALEM — A fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine given to people over 60 in Israel made them three times more resistant to serious illness than thrice-vaccinated people in the same age group, Israel’s Health Ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry also said the fourth dose, or second booster, made people over 60 twice as resistant to infection than those in the age group who received three shots of the vaccine.

A preliminary study published by Israel’s Sheba medical centre last Monday found that the fourth shot increases antibodies to even higher levels than the third but “probably” not to the point that it could completely fend off the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Israel began offering a fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine to people over 60 earlier this month as Omicron swept the country.

The ministry said on Sunday the study it conducted with several major Israeli universities and the Sheba centre compared 400,000 people over 60 who received the second booster with 600,000 people in the age group who were given a third shot more than four months ago.

As elsewhere, Israel has seen COVID-19 cases spiral due to Omicron. But it has logged no deaths from the variant.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20220124/fourth-covid-vaccine-shot-raises-resistance-to-serious-illness-for-over60s-israel/65391.html

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Europe could be headed for pandemic ‘endgame’: WHO

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The Omicron variant has moved the COVID-19 pandemic into a new phase and could bring it to an end in Europe, the WHO Europe director said Sunday.

“It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview, adding that Omicron could infect 60 percent of Europeans by March.

Once the current surge of Omicron sweeping across Europe subsides, “there will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality”.

“We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before COVID-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back,” Kluge said.

Top US scientist Anthony Fauci expressed similar optimism on Sunday, telling ABC News talk show “This Week” that with COVID-19 cases coming down “rather sharply” in parts of the United States, “things are looking good”.

While cautioning against overconfidence, he said that if the recent fall in case numbers in areas like the US’s northeast continued, “I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country”.

The WHO regional office for Africa also said last week that cases of COVID had plummeted in that region and deaths were declining for the first time since the Omicron-dominated fourth wave of the virus reached its peak.

Focus on ‘minimising disruption’

The Omicron variant, which studies have shown is more contagious than Delta but generally leads to less severe infection among vaccinated people, has raised long-awaited hopes that COVID-19 is starting to shift from a pandemic to a more manageable endemic illness like seasonal flu.

But Kluge cautioned that it was still too early to consider COVID-19 endemic.

“There is a lot of talk about endemic but endemic means … that it is possible to predict what’s going to happen. This virus has surprised (us) more than once so we have to be very careful,” Kluge said.

With Omicron spreading so widely, other variants could still emerge, he warned.

The European Commissioner for Internal Markets, Thierry Breton, whose brief includes vaccine production, said Sunday that it will be possible to adapt existing vaccines to any new variants that may emerge.

“We will be able to better resist, including to new variants”, he told French television LCI.

“We will be ready to adapt the vaccines, especially the mRNA ones, if necessary to adapt them to more virulent variants”.

In the WHO Europe region, which comprises 53 countries including several in Central Asia, Omicron represented 15 percent of new cases as of January 18, compared to 6.3 percent a week earlier, the health body said.

Focus on ‘minimising disruption’

Omicron is now the dominant variant in the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA, or Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), the EU health agency ECDC said last week.

Because of the very fast spread of the variant across Europe, Kluge said emphasis ought to be on “minimising disruption of hospitals, schools and the economy, and putting huge efforts on protecting the vulnerable”, rather than measures to stop transmission.

He meanwhile urged people to exercise personal responsibility.

“If you don’t feel well, stay home, take a self test. If you’re positive, isolate”, he said.

Kluge said the priority was to stabilise the situation in Europe, where vaccination levels range across countries from 25 to 95 percent of the population, leading to varying degrees of strain on hospitals and health-care system.

“Stabilising means that the health system is no longer overwhelmed due to COVID-19 and can continue with the essential health services, which have unfortunately been really disrupted for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and routine immunisation”.

Asked whether fourth doses would be necessary to bring an end to the pandemic, Kluge was cautious, saying only that “we know that that immunity jumps up after each shot of the vaccine”.

The pandemic has so far killed nearly 5.6 million million people worldwide, according to official figures compiled by AFP, 1.7 million of them in Europe.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20220124/europe-could-be-headed-for-pandemic-endgame-who/65390.html

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