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COVID-19

Hong Kong to end mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2022)

Hong Kong’s leader announced the city would no longer require incoming travelers to quarantine in designated hotels as it seeks to remain competitive and open up globally after nearly two years.

Incoming travelers will also no longer need a negative PCR test within 48 hours before boarding a plane to Hong Kong, the city’s chief executive John Lee said Friday at a news conference. Instead, they will need to present a negative COVID-19 result from a rapid antigen test conducted within 24 hours before the flight, AP reported.

The measures will come into effect Monday.

“While we can’t control the trend of the epidemic, we must allow the maximum room to allow connectivity with the world so that we can have economic momentum and to reduce inconvenience to arriving travelers,” said Lee, who also said that authorities will not roll back the measures announced Friday.

He said that there must be a “balance between risks and economic growth.”

From Monday, travelers into Hong Kong will have to undergo three days of home monitoring. If they test negative for COVID-19 after three days, they will be allowed into venues such as restaurants and bars. They must also undergo several mandatory coronavirus tests on their fourth, sixth and seventh days in Hong Kong.

For nearly two years, Hong Kong required overseas arrivals in the city to serve a period of mandatory quarantine in designated hotels. At one point, the city had among the world’s longest quarantine periods at 21 days of mandatory isolation.

The easing of measures comes as Hong Kong prepares to hold several high-profile events, including the Rugby Sevens tournament in November and an international banking summit.

Neighboring Taiwan is expected to do the same next month. This leaves mainland China as one of the only places in the world that will still require travelers to quarantine on arrival.

Hong Kong has for most of the pandemic aligned with China’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

Over the past 2 1/2 years, Hong Kong authorities have imposed strict social distancing measures and locked down residential buildings with confirmed COVID-19 infections to mass-test residents.

As the rest of the world reopened borders, businesses urged Hong Kong authorities to come up with an exit strategy to the pandemic in order to remain competitive amid a brain drain as tens of thousands of residents left the city.

COVID-19

Washington state Gov. Inslee tests positive for COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: February 2, 2023)

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time.

Inslee’s office said in a statement Wednesday that he had tested positive and was experiencing very mild symptoms including a cough. He is consulting with his doctor about whether to receive Paxlovid antiviral treatments, according to the statement.

He plans to continue working. Trudi Inslee, the first spouse, has tested negative.

Inslee, who throughout the pandemic pushed for mitigation measures including indoor mask-wearing and restrictions on large public gatherings, is fully vaccinated and had booster shots in October 2021 and March 2022 and September 2022, according to his office.

“Once again I am very appreciative to be vaccinated and boosted,” Inslee said in the statement. “This is a scientific gift that has given us the capacity to prevent hospitalizations or worse. I encourage folks who haven’t received their booster to talk with their doctor and avail themselves of this protective, life-saving measure.”

Only 15% of Americans have received the recommended, updated booster that has been offered since last fall.

The governor also tested positive for COVID last May.

President Joe Biden told Congress this week that he will end the national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11.

Inslee ended the state of emergency in Washington at the end of October.

More than 1.1 million people in the country have died from COVID-19 since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 3,700 last week. More than 15,000 people in Washington have died from the virus.

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COVID-19

COVID-19 is a leading cause of death among children, but is still rare

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2023)

COVID-19 was the eighth leading cause of death among children in recent months, according to a study published Monday.

In a year-long period from August 2021 to July 2022, 821 children ages 0 to 19 died from COVID-19 at a rate of 1 per 100,000. Children’s deaths of any kind are rare, researchers noted.

COVID-19 ranked fifth in non-disease-related deaths and first in infectious or respiratory illness deaths, overtaking the flu and pneumonia, NPR reported.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, the leading causes of death among children were perinatal conditions, unintentional injuries, birth defects, assault, suicide, cancerous tumors, heart disease and influenza and pneumonia.

The time period researchers analyzed coincided with the rise of Delta and Omicron COVID-19 cases. They found that studying other 12-month periods during the pandemic did not change the results.

Researchers noted their results were limited by the underreporting of COVID-19 cases, and the exclusion of deaths where COVID-19 could have been a contributing or amplifying factor in tandem with other conditions, such as influenza, NPR reported.

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WHO: COVID still an emergency but nearing ‘inflection’ point

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

The coronavirus remains a global health emergency, the World Health Organization chief said Monday, after a key advisory panel found the pandemic may be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity can lower virus-related deaths, AP reported.

Speaking at the opening of WHO’s annual executive board meeting, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “there is no doubt that we’re in a far better situation now” than a year ago — when the highly transmissible Omicron variant was at its peak.

But Tedros warned that in the last eight weeks, at least 170,000 people have died around the world in connection with the coronavirus. He called for at-risk groups to be fully vaccinated, an increase in testing and early use of antivirals, an expansion of lab networks, and a fight against “misinformation” about the pandemic.

“We remain hopeful that in the coming year, the world will transition to a new phase in which we reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible level,” he said.

Tedros’ comments came moments after WHO released findings of its emergency committee on the pandemic which reported that some 13.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered — with nearly 90% of health workers and more than four in five people over 60 years of age having completed the first series of jabs.

“The committee acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic may be approaching an inflexion point,” WHO said in a statement. Higher levels of immunity worldwide through vaccination or infection “may limit the impact” of the virus that causes COVID-19 on “morbidity and mortality,” the committee said.

“(B)ut there is little doubt that this virus will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future,” it said. While Omicron versions are easily spread, “there has been a decoupling between infection and severe disease” compared to that of earlier variants.

Committee members cited “pandemic fatigue” and the increasing public perception that COVID-19 isn’t as much of a risk as it once was, leading to people to increasingly ignore or disregard health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.

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