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England lifts COVID-19 pandemic restriction-Omicron marks end of the pandemic.




England has lifted its restrictions implemented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at a press conference at Downing Street, Health Secretary Sajid Javad stated that the England will be lifting the restrictions implemented in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but the legal requirement to self-isolate if tested positive for the virus will continue.

While Health Secretary Sajid Javad stated that it was a major milestone, he also stated that “It’s not the end of the road and we shouldn’t see this as the finish line because we cannot eradicate this virus and its future variants. Instead we must learn to live with Covid in the same way we have to live with flu”.

This has also meant that the work-from-home guidance would be ending with the majority of the nation’s workforce reverting to pre-pandemic work schedules. Additionally, students will also be no longer required to wear masks at schools.

Moreover, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also confirmed that the Government plans to end the legal requirement for positive cases to isolate by late March, but may move the date forward.

The U.S. has also hinted that the pandemic may be heading towards an end. Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that the Omicron variant may mark the end of the pandemic.


More than half of Americans have had COVID-19 infections, U.S. study shows





Following a record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, some 58 percent of the U.S. population overall and more than 75 percent of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a U.S. nationwide blood survey released on Tuesday.

The study issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the U.S. population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in the United States.

Before Omicron arrived in December of 2021, a third of the U.S. population had evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Omicron drove up infections in every age group, according to the new data, but children and adolescents, many of whom remain unvaccinated, had the highest rates of infection, while people 65 and older – a heavily vaccinated population – had the lowest.

During the December to February period – when Omicron cases were raging in the United States – 75.2 percent of children aged 11 and younger had infection-related antibodies in their blood, up from 44.2 percent in the prior three-month period. Among those 12-17, 74.2 percent carried antibodies, up from 45.6 percent from September to December.

Scientists looked for specific antibodies produced in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are only present after an infection and are not generated by COVID-19 vaccines. Trace amounts of these antibodies can remain in the blood for as long as two years.

“Having infection-induced antibodies does not necessarily mean you are protected against future infection,” said the CDC’s Kristie Clarke, co-author of the study, during a media briefing. “We did not look at whether people had a level of antibodies that provides protection against reinfection or severe disease.”

U.S. COVID-19 infections are on the upswing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during the briefing, rising 22.7 percent in the past week to 44,000 per day. Hospitalizations rose for the second week in a row, up 6.6 percent, largely driven by subvariants of Omicron.

While deaths fell 13.2 percent, week-over-week, the United States is fast approaching the grim milestone of 1 million total COVID-related deaths.

Walensky said the BA.1 variant, which caused the Omicron wave, now only accounts for 3 percent of U.S. transmission. Increasingly, she said a subvariant first discovered in upstate New York called BA.2.121 makes up nearly 30 percent of U.S. cases, and appears to be 25 percent more transmissible than even the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

In certain counties with high COVID-19 community spread, the CDC now recommends people wear a mask in public indoor settings. It cited upstate New York and the Northeast region as areas where hospitalizations have been rising.

Walensky said the CDC continues to recommend masking in all indoor public transportation settings, and stressed that vaccination remains the safest strategy for preventing complications from COVID-19.

More than 66 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 46 percent have had a booster, according to federal data.

The U.S. daily COVID-19 case number is forecast to double from 40,223 cases on April 23 to 80,418 by May 7, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, a magazine. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are expected to decline over the next month, based on an ensemble forecast from 24 modeling groups of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: psmnews

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WHO: Despite decline in infections, deaths, COVID-19 pandemic still far from over





Despite the decline in global COVID-19 infections and fatalities, the pandemic is still far from over, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom.

The WHO chief made the remarks on Tuesday in his remarks at the public hearing regarding a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.

“Transmission remains high, vaccine coverage remains too low in too many countries, and the relaxation of public health and social measures is creating the conditions for new variants to spread,” he said.

“Our focus must remain on ending the pandemic – in particular, by supporting all countries to vaccinate 70 percent of their population, with priority on the most at-risk groups.”

Noting that COVID-19 has exposed serious gaps in the global health security architecture, the WHO chief said the world needs to learn from the current pandemic to prepare for any future health crises that may arise.

He also took the opportunity to rally the world towards unity in its response to the virus.

He particularly pointed out vaccination gaps as a challenge that was impeding the fight against COVID-19, noting that while some of the high-income countries were rolling out fourth doses of the life-saving jabs, one third of the world’s population is yet to receive a single dose, including 83 percent of the population of Africa.

So far, the total number of COVID-19 infections recorded globally has surpassed 500 million, with over 6.18 million deaths.


Source: CGTN

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Chinese scientist: Omicron is far more deadly than flu





The latest Omicron outbreak in China shows that the COVID-19 variant is far more deadly than normal flu, health experts said at a press conference held in Beijing on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, Hong Kong reported over 1.16 million COVID-19 cases and 8,136 deaths in the latest Omicron wave, with a mortality rate of 0.7 percent, said Wu Zunyou, chief scientist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s far higher than the 0.006 percent to 0.09 percent death rate of flu.

The COVID-19 death toll in Hong Kong’s latest wave is much higher than the combined number in the previous four waves, Wu added.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 data from Hong Kong showed that the mortality rate was closely associated with whether a person was vaccinated or not, said Wang Guqiang, head of the Infectious Disease Department at Peking University First Hospital.

He said the death rate was 3.2 percent among unvaccinated people, 0.96 percent among those who have received only one shot, 0.14 percent among people with two jabs, and 0.03 percent among those with three doses.

Wu added that analysis of public data from other countries showed that Omicron caused more deaths than Delta within a similar period.

For example, in the UK, from August to October 2021, when the Delta strain was prevalent, the country reported 16 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people. In contrast, from November 2021 to January 2022, when the Omicron variant was dominant, the country reported 22 deaths per 100,000, he said.

Similarly, from August to October 2021, the U.S. reported 40 deaths per 100,000 people, while the rate from November 2021 to January 2022 was 42 deaths per 100,000 people, he added.

Why are most Chinese mainland new cases asymptomatic?

Data from Shanghai, one of the hardest-hit areas in the recent COVID-19 case spike in China, showed that almost all cases are “asymptomatic” – with no symptoms at all.

On April 5, Shanghai health authorities found 16,766 asymptomatic cases, almost 54 times the number of confirmed cases, which was only 311.

Wang explained the seemingly drastic difference.

“We are doing massive COVID-19 tests regularly,” he said. “Many infections were found when the virus was still in its incubation period.”

The incubation period is the time between infection and the onset of symptoms. The common incubation period for COVID-19 is two to 14 days.

“Another reason is that young people tend to show less or no symptoms after being infected,” Wang added.

Wang also cited the less severe Omicron variant and high vaccination rate in China.

Protecting the elderly and vulnerable patients

As of Tuesday, more than 1.24 billion people in China have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s 88.18 percent of the country’s population. More than 750 million people have received booster shots.

Elderly people above 60 are now the main targets of China’s inoculation program, with more than 212 million already fully vaccinated.

“Omicron is more dangerous than the common cold,” Wang told reporters. “We have to protect the elderly with vaccines before calling it a day.”

Many people on Chinese social media are concerned about people with serious underlying conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Wang also explained the government’s arrangement for them.

“We have asked hospitals to set up buffer areas in emergency departments so doctors can treat patients who are still waiting for COVID-19 test results,” Wang said. “We also asked local governments to get a list of pregnant women and patients who need dialysis, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and follow their progress.”

For people with chronic conditions who need medicines, doctors are allowed to give prescriptions for as long as 12 weeks. And hospitals can also provide door-to-door delivery services.

“People living in control areas may need mental and physical health consulting,” Wang said. “We can use the internet to do remote consulting so that people don’t need to go outdoors.”


Source: CGTN 

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