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COVID-19

Sharp spike in infections sees COVID-19 tally hit 50 million mark

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(Last Updated On: November 9, 2020)

As a second wave sweeps across Europe, the global tally of COVID-19 infections topped the 50 million mark on Sunday. 

According to a Reuters tally, the second wave of the virus in the past 30 days has accounted for a quarter of the total. 

The United States has been particularly hard hit with over 100,000 new cases reported each day. A surge in infections in Europe also contributed to the spike in overall numbers. 

Reuters reported that the latest seven-day average shows global daily infections are rising by more than 540,000.

More than 1.25 million people have died from the disease.

However, as Reuters states, the pandemic’s recent acceleration has been ferocious. It took 32 days for the number of cases to rise from 30 million to 40 million. It took just 21 days to add another 10 million.

The global second wave is testing healthcare systems across Europe, prompting Germany, France and Britain to order many citizens back to their homes again.

Denmark, which imposed a new lockdown on its population in several northern areas, ordered the culling of its 17 million minks after a mutation of the coronavirus found in the animals spread to humans.

The latest US surge coincided with the last month of election campaigning in which President Donald Trump minimized the severity of the pandemic and his successful challenger, Joe Biden, urged a more science-based approach.

Trump’s rallies, some open-air and with few masks and little social distancing, led to 30,000 additional confirmed cases and likely led to more than 700 deaths, Stanford University economists estimated in a research paper.

Reuters reported that in Asia, India has the world’s second-highest caseload but has seen a steady slowdown since September. Total cases exceeded 8.5 million cases on Friday. 

COVID-19

WHO: World coronavirus cases fall 24%; deaths rise in Asia

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

New coronavirus cases reported globally dropped nearly a quarter in the last week while deaths fell 6% but were still higher in parts of Asia, according to a report Thursday on the pandemic by the World Health Organization.

The U.N. health agency said there were 5.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week, a decline of 24% from the previous week. Infections fell everywhere in the world, including by nearly 40% in Africa and Europe and by a third in the Middle East. COVID deaths rose in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia by 31% and 12% respectively, but fell or remained stable everywhere else, AP reported.

At a press briefing Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said reported coronavirus deaths over the past month have surged 35%, and noted there had been 15,000 deaths in the past week.

“15,000 deaths a week is completely unacceptable, when we have all the tools to prevent infections and save lives,” Tedros said. He said the number of virus sequences shared every week has plummeted 90%, making it extremely difficult for scientists to monitor how COVID-19 might be mutating.

On Thursday, WHO’s vaccine advisory group recommended for the first time that people most vulnerable to COVID-19, including older people, those with underlying health conditions and health workers, get a second booster shot. Numerous other health agencies and countries made the same recommendation months ago.

The expert group also said it had evaluated data from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for younger people and said children and teenagers were in the lowest priority group for vaccination, since they are far less likely to get severe disease.

Earlier this week, British authorities authorized an updated version of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that targets omicron and the U.K. government announced it would be offered to people over 50 beginning next month.

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COVID-19

CDC admits to making major mistakes in COVID-19 pandemic

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(Last Updated On: August 18, 2022)

America’s leading health agency announced Wednesday that it is planning a complete overhaul of its structure and operations due to major mistakes in handling the COVID-19 pandemic response, Anadolu News Agency reported.

“To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes — from testing, to data, to communications,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a statement.

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” she said of the agency’s 11,000-plus staff members. “I want us all to do better, and it starts with CDC leading the way.”

The death toll from the pandemic in the US stands at more than one million people since March 2020.

The CDC first faced scrutiny over its COVID-19 response in the early days of the pandemic for its poor response to testing and monitoring the rapid spread of the virus, Anadolu reported.

During the later stages of the pandemic, the agency faced criticism for shifting or confusing guidance when it came to mask-wearing, social distancing and designating isolation periods for people who tested positive.

Walensky said the overhaul was not directed by the White House, insisting it was a CDC initiative.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” she continued. “It’s not lost on me that we fell short in many ways. We had some pretty public mistakes, and so much of this effort was to hold up the mirror…to understand where and how we could do better.”

The CDC reboot will revamp the entire organization from top to bottom, everything from operational procedures to the culture of the agency itself.

Walensky said the organization will move away from its previous focus on academic studies and shift towards prioritizing responding to emerging diseases like COVID-19 and monkeypox so the agency can meet its fullest potential.

The CDC will also create a new executive council to implement the widespread changes, Anadolu reported.

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UK first to approve Omicron COVID shot with Moderna nod

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(Last Updated On: August 16, 2022)

Britain, the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine in late 2020, has now also given the first green light to a variant-adapted shot that targets both the original and Omicron version of the virus, Reuters reported.

The UK medicines regulator (MHRA) gave the so-called bivalent vaccine made by U.S. drug company Moderna (MRNA.O) conditional approval as a booster for adults on Monday.

Later on Monday, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) backed the use of the variant-adapted shot in the country’s booster campaign starting September.

No serious safety concerns were identified with the new Moderna formulation, the MHRA added on Monday.

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