Connect with us

Health

China to test 13 million in Zhengzhou as Xi’an COVID-19 outbreak eases

Published

on

The city of Zhengzhou ordered its nearly 13 million residents to take COVID-19 tests Wednesday after a handful of cases were detected, as China fights to stamp out virus clusters ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Everyone in Zhengzhou, which has been placed under a partial lockdown, must be tested to “thoroughly uncover infections hidden among the public”, the city’s government said in a statement Wednesday.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The city has detected 11 cases in recent days.

The mass-testing order came as case numbers in the locked-down city of Xi’an fell to their lowest in weeks, with officials saying that outbreak had been “brought under control”.

Xi’an’s 13 million residents have been under stay-at-home orders for the last fortnight.

“Although the case number has been high for many days, the rapid rise in COVID spread at community level has been brought under control compared with the early stages of the outbreak,” said Ma Guanghui, deputy director of Shaanxi province’s health commission, at a press conference.

“The epidemic is showing a downward trend.”

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

China has stuck to a rigid approach of stamping out COVID cases when they appear, with tight border restrictions and targeted lockdowns since the virus first emerged in the country in 2019.

But, with less than a month to go until the Winter Olympics in the capital, a series of small outbreaks across the country has put the strategy under pressure.

Although the number of reported cases in China is very low compared with other nations, infections in recent weeks have reached a high not seen in the country since March 2020.

China recorded 91 cases Wednesday – including 35 in Xi’an, the city’s lowest tally since mid-December.

The Zhengzhou outbreak is tiny by comparison, but officials are taking no chances.

State media said about 500 close contacts had been traced from the outbreak’s two symptomatic cases, linked through mahjong rooms and family gatherings.

Eight residential communities were locked down.

On Monday, one million people in Yuzhou city – in the same province as Zhengzhou – were put under stay-at-home orders after three asymptomatic cases.

Local authorities deemed to have failed in preventing virus outbreaks have been sacked or punished, including two senior Communist Party officials in Xi’an that were dismissed over their “insufficient rigor in preventing and controlling the outbreak.”

Dozens of officials were punished for their handling of Xi’an’s outbreak, including the official in charge of the city’s health tracking system, who was suspended.

Beijing will host the Winter Olympics from February 4, under some of the strictest rules for a mass sporting event since the pandemic started.

All athletes, officials, staff and volunteers will be within a “closed loop” system that separates them from the public for the duration of the Games.

Read more:

Hong Kong ramps up COVID-19 controls, bans flights from eight countries

Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID-19 lately?

China reports major fall in COVID-19 infections in locked-down Xi’an

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Health

COVID-19 pandemic ‘nowhere near over’: WHO chief

Published

on

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, the World Health Organization chief said Tuesday, cautioning against a narrative that the fast-spreading omicron variant is risk-free.

“This pandemic is nowhere near over,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

Tedros warned against dismissing as mild the coronavirus variant omicron, which has spread like wildfire around the globe since it was first detected in southern Africa in November.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is much more contagious than previous strains but seems to cause less serious disease.

That has triggered a debate on the virus passing from being a pandemic to becoming endemic – with the implication that the danger will have passed.
But the WHO has warned that the sheer numbers of people infected will mean many vulnerable people are still falling seriously ill and dying.

“Omicron may be less severe, on average, but the narrative that it is a mild disease is misleading,” Tedros said.

“Make no mistake: Omicron is causing hospitalizations and deaths, and even the less severe cases are inundating health facilities.”

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

He said there were indications that the omicron-fueled surge of COVID-19 cases may have peaked in some countries.

This, he said, “gives hope that the worst of this latest wave is done with, but no country is out of the woods yet.”

Tedros said there was an urgent need to remove the pressure building on health systems, especially in countries that still have low vaccination coverage.

“Now is not the time to give up and wave the white flag,” he said.

“We can still significantly reduce the impact of the current wave by sharing and using health tools effectively, and implementing public health and social measures that we know work.”

Data indicate that existing COVID-19 vaccines are less effective in protecting against omicron transmission than against previous strains.

But Tedros stressed it remained vital to ensure broader, more equitable access to the jabs.

“Vaccines may be less effective at preventing infection and transmission of omicron than they were for previous variants, but they still are exceptionally good at preventing serious disease and death,” he said.

Health experts warn that allowing COVID-19 to spread unabated in some places dramatically increases the chance of new, more dangerous variants emerging.

“With the incredible growth of omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge,” Tedros cautioned.

Read more:

US faces wave of omicron deaths in coming weeks: Pandemic models

More infections mean new COVID-19 variants, warns US based researcher

Australia suffers deadliest day of pandemic as omicron drives up hospital cases

Continue Reading

Health

US faces wave of omicron deaths in coming weeks: Pandemic models

Published

on

The fast-moving omicron variant may cause less severe disease on average, but COVID-19 deaths in the US are climbing and modelers forecast 50,000 to 300,000 more Americans could die by the time the wave subsides in mid-March.

The seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the US has been trending upward since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,700 on Jan. 17 — still below the peak of 3,300 in January 2021. COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents started rising slightly two weeks ago, although still at a rate 10 times less than last year before most residents were vaccinated.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Despite signs omicron causes milder disease on average, the unprecedented level of infection spreading through the country, with cases still soaring in many states, means many vulnerable people will become severely sick. If the higher end of projections comes to pass, that would push total US deaths from COVID-19 over 1 million by early spring.

“A lot of people are still going to die because of how transmissible omicron has been,” said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi. “It unfortunately is going to get worse before it gets better.”

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Morgues are starting to run out of space in Johnson County, Kansas, said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the health department. More than 30 residents have died in the county this year, the vast majority of them unvaccinated.

But the notion that a generally less severe variant could still take the lives of thousands of people has been difficult for health experts to convey. The math of it — that a small percentage of a very high number of infections can yield a very high number of deaths — is difficult to visualize.

“Overall, you’re going to see more sick people even if you as an individual have a lower chance of being sick,” said Katriona Shea of Pennsylvania State University, who co-leads a team that pulls together several pandemic models and shares the combined projections with the White House.

The wave of deaths heading for the United States will crest in late January or early February, Shea said. In early February, weekly deaths could equal or exceed the delta peak, and possibly even surpass the previous US peak in deaths last year.

Some unknown portion of these deaths are among people infected with the delta variant, but experts say omicron is also claiming lives.

“This is omicron driven,” Shea said of the coming wave of deaths. The combined models project 1.5 million Americans will be hospitalized and 191,000 will die from mid-December through mid-March. Taking into account the uncertainty in the models, US deaths during the omicron wave could range from 58,000 to 305,000.

Yet, it’s become increasingly clear that the risk from omicron is lower than from previous variants. New evidence from nearly 70,000 patients in Southern California suggests omicron is causing milder illness than delta.

A study, posted online and cited during a recent White House briefing, found patients with omicron had a 53 percent lower risk of hospitalization with respiratory symptoms, a 74 percent lower risk of ICU admission, and a 91 percent lower risk of death. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, comes from researchers at Kaiser Permanente and University of California, Berkeley.

“It’s hard for me to say straight out it’s good news,” said study co-author Sara Y. Tartof, a Kaiser Permanente research scientist. “Maybe there’s good news in the sense that if you are infected your chance of becoming severely ill are decreased, but from a societal perspective it’s a very heavy burden for us. It remains a serious situation, and we need to maintain practices and behaviors we know protect us.”

Overburdened hospitals could also contribute to more deaths, said Marc Lipsitch of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and scientific director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s forecasting center.

“In places with extremely short staffing and overloads of patients, as the medical professionals have been telling us, the quality of care begins to suffer,” Lipsitch said. “That may also lead to higher death rates, but that’s not in any of the models that I’m aware of.”

Read more:

More infections mean new COVID-19 variants, warns US based researcher

Australia suffers deadliest day of pandemic as omicron drives up hospital cases

UK to scale back COVID measures introduced to limit omicron spread: Health minister

Continue Reading

Health

UK to scale back COVID measures introduced to limit omicron spread: Health minister

Published

on

British health minister Sajid Javid said on Tuesday he was optimistic that COVID-19 measures introduced to reduce the spread of omicron will be scaled back next week as cases and hospitalizations look to have peaked.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced so-called “Plan B” measures for England in December in a bid to slow the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The measures, which include advice to work from home where possible, greater mask-wearing and the use of vaccine passes, are due to be reviewed on January 26.

The government said in December the plan was designed to buy time for people to get booster shots, and also find out more about omicron, which has proven highly transmissible but less severe than previous variants.

“I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than they are absolutely necessary,” Javid said in parliament, adding Britain was the most boosted country in Europe and had the most COVID-19 antivirals in Europe.

“Due to these pharmaceutical defenses and the likelihood that we have already reached the peak of the case numbers and hospitalizations, I'm cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to substantially reduce measures next week.”

Johnson faces the gravest crisis of his tenure after revelations about gatherings during COVID-19 lockdowns, some when British people could not even bid farewell in person to dying relatives and the Queen was mourning her husband.

The removal of “Plan B” measures would please many in his party who want to return to something more akin to normal life.

Javid said that a third of Britain’s 15 million cases had been reported since the onset of omicron.

However, while Britain has reported 152,075 deaths from COVID-19 in total, less than 10,000 of these have been since omicron was identified in late November.

Read more:

Hong Kong orders culling of 2,000 hamsters after COVID-19 hits pets

Saudi Arabia records 5,873 COVID-19 cases and two deaths in 24 hours

Japan to increase social restrictions as COVID-19 variant omicron surges

Continue Reading

Trending