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COVID is less severe with Omicron than Delta, U.S. study suggests

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2022)

The Omicron variant appears to result in less severe COVID-19 than seen during previous periods of high coronavirus transmission including the Delta wave, with shorter hospital stays, less need for intensive care and fewer deaths, according to a new U.S. study, Reuters reported.

However, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has led to record numbers of infections and hospitalizations, straining the U.S. healthcare system.

Despite the steep spike in COVID cases, the percentage of hospitalized patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) during the current Omicron wave was about 29% lower than during last winter’s surge and some 26% lower than during the Delta wave, the study published on Tuesday in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found.

According to the report the lower COVID-19 disease severity during the Omicron period is likely related to higher vaccination coverage, booster use among those eligible for the extra shots, as well as prior infections providing some immune protection, the study said.

Deaths in the period from Dec. 19 to Jan. 15, when Omicron infections were at a peak, averaged 9 per 1,000 COVID cases, compared to 16 per 1,000 in the previous winter peak and 13 during the Delta wave, the study showed, Reuters reported.

The findings were consistent with previous data analyses from South Africa, England and Scotland, where infections from Omicron peaked earlier than in the United States, the CDC said.

Relatively high hospitalizations among children during the Omicron period may be related to lower vaccination rates compared with adults, the agency said. Children under age 5 are not yet eligible for vaccines in the United States and the rate of vaccination among older children lags that of adults.

The study involved analysis of data from a large healthcare database and three surveillance systems to assess U.S. COVID-19 characteristics from Dec. 1, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2022.

The authors said one limitation of the study was that it was unable to exclude incidental infections in which patients admitted for other reasons test positive for COVID while in the hospital. That may inflate hospitalization-to-case ratios and affect severity indicators, read the report.

COVID-19

WHO to roll out COVID-19 vaccine campaign in June

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

The World Health Organization (WHO) says another COVID-19 vaccine campaign will be launched across Afghanistan in June and that over five million people over the age of 18 will be targeted.

On Thursday, WHO said: “The campaign will be carried out through 473 mobile vaccination teams in addition to 559 fixed sites (including regional, provincial and district hospitals) and some comprehensive health centers.”

The vaccines to be used will be Johnson & Johnson vaccines and Chinese Sinofarm.

The World Health Organization says there are more than seven million doses of the vaccine in Afghanistan already.

Already, more than 6.1 million across Afghanistan were vaccinated in May – of which 53 percent were men and the rest women.

Earlier this year, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health said more than 600 centers in Kabul and the provinces were working to vaccinate people.

According to WHO, since the beginning of the outbreak in Afghanistan, about 180,000 positive cases have been reported, with 7,700 deaths.

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COVID-19

COVID creates new billionaire every 30 hours while millions fall into extreme poverty: Oxfam

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2022)

As the cost of essential goods rises faster than it has in decades, billionaires in the food and energy sectors are increasing their fortunes by $1 billion every two days, Oxfam reported Thursday.

For every new billionaire created during the pandemic — one every 30 hours — nearly a million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022 at nearly the same rate, the new report “Profiting from Pain” reveals.

The report has been published as the World Economic Forum gathers in Davos.

“Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them,” said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

“Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive,” she said.

The brief shows that 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours but that this year 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.

Billionaires’ wealth increased more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined.

“Billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are now smarter or working harder. Workers are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions. The super-rich have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatization and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments,” said Bucher.

“Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger. This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills,” she said.

Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors — where monopolies are especially common — are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid COVID-19.

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Covid-19 pandemic ‘most certainly not over’, warns WHO chief

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(Last Updated On: May 23, 2022)

The Covid-19 pandemic is “most certainly not over”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Sunday (May 22) during the opening session of the U.N agency’s annual assembly.

More than 100 world health ministers meet in Geneva this week for the WHO’s first in-person World Health Assembly in three years.

As the delegates meet, COVID-19 infections were still rising and and efforts to vaccinate the world remained incomplete, Tedros told the assembly.

“It’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere. Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions – and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted,” he said.

As the U.N. agency seeks to define its future role in global health policy, the agenda is the most packed in the WHO’s 75-year history and is seen as an historic opportunity to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to 15 million deaths, and prepare for the next global outbreak.

The WHO’s Europe region passed a resolution against Russia this month and asked Tedros to prepare a report on Ukraine’s health emergency.

Members are also preparing a resolution to be submitted to the assembly, although diplomats say it will stop short of suspending Russia’s voting rights, as some initially sought.

The WHO’s Ethiopian Director-General Tedros is all but certain to be re-elected via a secret ballot on Tuesday (May 24), having overcome criticism from his own government and a crisis last year following sexual abuse reports against WHO staff in Congo.

The biggest outcome from the assembly itself is expected to be a funding deal seen as necessary to ensure WHO’s survival, with an agreement set to be approved by members which would help cut its reliance on donations with strings attached.

WHO is currently funded mostly by voluntary contributions from governments and private donors, a set-up that the U.N. agency and independent panels of experts have said is unsustainable as the organisation faces new challenges, including higher risks of pandemics as well as other health issues from breastfeeding to Ebola.

A deal that would raise mandatory fees for member states and reduce its reliance on donations – as long as WHO makes much-needed changes to improve efficiency and transparency – is likely to be approved.

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