A fourth wave of coronavirus is in “full force”, Germany’s health minister has warned, after a 55% rise in cases over the past month.
Europe is “back at the epicentre” of the pandemic, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe director Dr Hans Kluge, and is the only place in the world where COVID is “still increasing”.
Infection rates across the region have risen by 6% in the past week alone, WHO bosses told a Geneva news conference on Thursday.
This has also resulted in an increase in hospital admissions – which have more than doubled in a week – and virus-related deaths – which have increased by 12%, Dr Kluge added.
German health minister Jens Spahn announced on Friday that booster vaccines will now be given to all adults six months after their second dose as a way of tackling the increase.
“A fourth COVID wave is now with us in full force,” he said.
“We are at the start of a very difficult few weeks.”
Despite Germany having vaccinated 67% of its population, it is still experiencing a dramatic surge.
On Friday, health officials reported the highest number of daily infections for a second day in a row (37,120), which far exceeded its previous winter peak of 33,777 from 18 December 2020.
Several countries in central and eastern Europe, including Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are also seeing two-week average case rates of over 1 in 1,000.
But many of these infections are happening in unvaccinated people, experts have said.
Slovakia, for example, reported a new record number of daily cases – 6,805 – on Friday and has one of the lowest vaccine rates in the EU.
Its health ministry confirmed that 69% of the new infections were in unvaccinated people.
Professor Andrew Preston, of the University of Bath’s biology and biochemistry department, said Europe’s surge could be down to both poor vaccination rates and a lack of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Some eastern European countries have very low vaccination rates and there you are seeing most of the cases in the unvaccinated,” he told Sky News.
“But in Germany yesterday they had a record number of cases and that probably reflects a pattern of what happens when you unlock with high levels of virus circulating.”
Dr Michael Ryan, of WHO’s health emergency programme, called on European governments to “close the gap” in their vaccine rollouts in response to the spike.
“There may be plenty of vaccine available, but uptake of vaccine has not been equal”, he said on Thursday.
WHO director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of maintaining some restrictions to reduce cases in Europe.
“Vaccines alone will not end the pandemic,” he said. “Vaccines do not replace the need for public health measures [which] remain important in every country.”
Dr Ryan added that “exhaustion” in “health workers, communities and government” is “leading to complacency”, “gaps in testing, clinical management and vaccination”.
“It is through those gaps” that transmission occurs, he said.
Although some European countries have reintroduced social distancing and face masks in public spaces in recent weeks, Professor Preston says this is only a temporary solution.
“The question is how do we move forward in a world where, even in countries with high vaccination rates, you still see high levels of virus transmission?
“In eastern European countries, reimposing restrictions might help buy time to increase low vaccination rates.
“And in places where there is significant pressure on health services, alleviating that with short term measures seems sensible.
“But because vaccines are not absolute in stopping people becoming infected, we need to decide what level of COVID-induced damage we are prepared to tolerate in order to return to ‘normal’.”
Courtesy of Sky News
An increase in Covid-19 transmission rates across Europe over the last two weeks, combined with low levels of vaccination in some countries, is “deeply worrying”, the World Health Organization has said.
The WHO said it feared another 236,000 Covid-19 deaths in Europe by 1 December.
“Last week, there was an 11% increase in the number of deaths in the region – one reliable projection is expecting 236,000 deaths in Europe, by December 1,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told reporters.
He added that “the stagnation in vaccine uptake in our region is of serious concern”.
Europe has registered around 1.3 million Covid deaths to date.
Of the WHO Europe’s 53 member states, 33 have registered an incidence rate greater than 10% in the past two weeks, Dr Kluge said.
He attributed the higher transmission to the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, an “exaggerated easing” of restrictions and measures, and a surge in summer travel.
As of 26 August, Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate was 530.7 per 100,000.
While around half of people in Europe are fully vaccinated, vaccination uptake in the region has slowed, Dr Kluge also noted.
“In the past six weeks, it has fallen by 14%, influenced by a lack of access to vaccines in some countries and a lack of vaccine acceptance in others.”
Only 6% of people in lower and lower-middle income countries in Europe are fully vaccinated, and some countries have only managed to vaccinate one in 10 health professionals.
“The stagnation in vaccine uptake in our region is of serious concern,” Dr Kluge said, urging countries to “increase production, share doses, and improve access”.
He said that a third-dose booster shot of the Covid-19 vaccination is a way to keep the most vulnerable safe and “not a luxury”.
The WHO said earlier this month data did not indicate a need for booster shots, while topping up already fully vaccinated people would further widen a vaccine-availability gap between rich and lower-income countries.
“A third dose of vaccine is not a luxury booster (that is) taken away from someone who is still waiting for a first jab. It’s basically a way to keep the most vulnerable safe,” Dr Kluge said.
“We have to be a little bit careful with the booster shot, because there is not yet enough evidence,” he said.
“But more and more studies show that a third dose keeps vulnerable people safe, and this is done by more and more countries in our region,” he said.
Dr Kluge urged European countries with excess vaccines to share them with other countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe and Africa.
Teachers and school staff should be among the groups prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations so that schools in Europe and Central Asia can stay open, the WHO and Unicef said.
Measures to ensure that schools can stay open throughout the pandemic “include offering teachers and other school staff the Covid-19 vaccine as part of target population groups in national vaccination plans,” the UN agencies wrote in a statement.
The recommendation, already made by a group of WHO experts in November 2020 before the vaccination roll-out, should be done “while ensuring vaccination of vulnerable populations,” the statement said.
As schools reopen after the summer holidays, the agencies said it was “vital that classroom-based learning continue uninterrupted,” despite the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus.
“This is of paramount importance for children’s education, mental health and social skills, for schools to help equip our children to be happy and productive members of society,” Dr Kluge said in the statement.
“The pandemic has caused the most catastrophic disruption to education in history,” he added.
The agencies urged countries to vaccinate children over the age of 12 who have underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
It also recalled the importance of measures to improve the school environment during the pandemic, including better ventilation, smaller class sizes, social distancing and regular Covid testing for children and staff.
According to the WHO’s recommendations published in early July, testing of children in risk groups who display Covid-19 symptoms should be a priority.
Courtesy of rte.ie
Health authorities in Guinea have confirmed one death from Marburg virus, a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
It marks the first time that the deadly disease has been identified in West Africa. There have been 12 major Marburg outbreaks since 1967, mostly in southern and eastern Africa.
Guinea’s new case was first identified last week, just two months after the country was declared free of Ebola following a brief flare-up earlier this year that killed 12 people.
The patient, who has since succumbed to the illness, first sought treatment at a local clinic before his condition rapidly deteriorated, the WHO statement said.
Analysts at Guinea’s national haemorrhagic fever laboratory and the Institute Pasteur in Senegal later confirmed the Marburg diagnosis.
“The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said in the statement.
“We are working with the health authorities to implement a swift response that builds on Guinea’s past experience and expertise in managing Ebola, which is transmitted in a similar way,” Moeti said.
Both the Marburg case and this year’s Ebola cases were detected in Guinea’s Gueckedou district, near the borders with Liberia and Ivory Coast. The first cases of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, the largest in history, also were from the same region in Southeastern Guinea’s forest region.
Marburg case fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management, WHO said, adding that transmission occurs through contact with infected body fluids and tissue. Symptoms include headache, vomiting blood, muscle pains and bleeding through various orifices.
Courtesy of reuters.com
China is racing to contain its worst coronavirus outbreak in months, as health officials blamed the highly infectious Delta variant for a surge in infections spanning 14 provinces.
China reported 328 symptomatic infections in July, almost equal to the total number of local cases from February to June.
“The main strain circulating at present is the Delta variant … which poses an even greater challenge to virus prevention and control work,” said Mi Feng, spokesman for the National Health Commission (NHC).
The outbreak is geographically the largest to hit China in several months, challenging the country’s early success in snuffing out the pandemic within its borders after Covid-19 seeped out of Wuhan.
But that record has been thrown into jeopardy after the fast-spreading Delta variant broke out at Nanjing airport in eastern Jiangsu province earlier this month.
More than 260 infections nationwide have been linked to the cluster in Nanjing, where nine cabin cleaners at an international airport tested positive on 20 July.
Hundreds of thousands have already been locked down in Jiangsu province, while Nanjing has tested all 9.2 million residents twice.
The contagiousness of the Delta variant combined with the peak tourist season and high passenger circulation at the airport has led to the rapid spread of this outbreak, NHC official He Qinghua told reporters.
Fresh cases reported today in two more regions – Fujian province and the sprawling megacity of Chongqing – included one patient who visited the tourist city of Xi’an, Shaanxi province, and an international cargo crew member who recently travelled from abroad, authorities said.
Officials in one Chongqing district ordered emergency mass testing late yesterday for people who had visited venues linked to confirmed cases.
After one asymptomatic case was discovered in Zhengzhou, the epicentre of recent deadly floods in central Henan province, city officials ordered mass testing of all 10 million residents.
The head of the city health commission was also sacked.
The tourist city of Zhangjiajie in Hunan province locked down all 1.5 million residents and shut all tourist attractions yesterday, according to an official notice.
Health officials said the virus was likely brought there via the Nanjing cluster, according to preliminary investigations.
Officials are now scrambling to track people nationwide who recently travelled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie, and have urged tourists not to travel to areas where cases have been found.
After reports that some people sickened in the latest cluster were vaccinated, health officials said this was “normal” and stressed the importance of vaccination alongside strict measures.
“The Covid vaccine’s protection against the Delta variant may have somewhat declined, but the current vaccine still has a good preventative and protective effect against the Delta variant,” said Feng Zijian, virologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 1.6 billion vaccine doses have so far been administered nationwide as of yesterday, the NHC said. It does not provide figures on how many people have been fully vaccinated.
Health officials have said they are aiming for 80% of the population to be fully vaccinated by year-end.
Worldwide, coronavirus infections are once again on the upswing, with the World Health Organization announcing an 80% average increase over the past four weeks in five of the health agency’s six regions, a jump largely fuelled by the Delta variant.
First detected in India, it has now reached 132 countries and territories.
“Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a press conference.
He stressed that the “game plan” still works, namely physical distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene and vaccination.
But both high and low-income countries are struggling to gain the upper hand against Delta, with the vastly unequal sprint for shots leaving plenty of room for variants to wreak havoc and further evolve.
Meanwhile in Australia, where only about 14% of the population is jabbed, the third-largest city of Brisbane and other parts of Queensland state are to enter a snap Covid-19 lockdown today as a cluster of the Delta variant bubbled into six new cases.
“The only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said while informing millions they will be under three days of strict stay-at-home orders.
The race for vaccines to triumph over variants appeared to suffer a blow as the US Centers for Disease Control released an analysis that found fully immunised people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant can spread the disease as easily as unvaccinated people.
While the jabs remain effective against severe disease and death, the US government agency said in a leaked internal CDC document “the war has changed” as a result of Delta.
An analysis of a superspreading event in the northeastern state of Massachusetts found three-quarters of the people sickened were vaccinated, according to a report the CDC published yesterday.
The outbreak related to 4 July festivities, with the latest number of people infected swelling to 900, according to local reports. The findings were used to justify a return to masks for vaccinated people in high-risk areas.
“As a vaccinated person, if you have one of these breakthrough infections, you may have mild symptoms, you may have no symptoms, but based on what we’re seeing here you could be contagious to other people,” Celine Gounder, an infectious diseases physician and professor at New York University, told AFP.
According to the leaked CDC document, a review of findings from other countries showed that while the original SARS-CoV-2 was as contagious as the common cold, each person with Delta infects on average eight others, making it as transmissible as chickenpox but still less than measles.
Reports from Canada, Scotland and Singapore suggest Delta infections may also be more severe, resulting in more hospitalisations.
Courtesy of rt.ie
A virus even more transmissible and fatal than Covid-19 will lead the world into the next pandemic, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, noting the “evolutionary certainty” of such an occurrence.
“Make no mistake, this will not be the last time the world faces the threat of pandemic,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the UN agency’s annual assembly of health ministers from its 194 member states on Monday. “It’s an evolutionary certainty that there will be another virus with the potential to be more transmittable and more deadly than this one.”
On a more positive note, Ghebreyesus said the global number of Covid-19 cases and deaths reported has been decreasing for three consecutive weeks.
But the WHO chief stressed that the world remains “in a fragile situation” and cautioned against any nation assuming it is “out of the woods, no matter its [Covid] vaccination rate.”
He also reiterated his previous calls for governments to donate Covid-19 inoculation doses to the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility backed by the WHO and the Gavi vaccine alliance.
So far, the global rollout of Covid jabs has seen more than 75% of all doses administered in just 10 countries, according to WHO data. Ghebreyesus said such “scandalous inequity” is “perpetuating” the pandemic. He has previously referred to the situation as “vaccine apartheid.”
The efficacy of the world’s current crop of Covid-19 vaccines does not appear to be undermined by emerging variants of the virus, such as the strain first detected in India, Ghebreyesus said. But he did warn variants are “changing constantly” and that any future strains could “render our tools ineffective and drag us back to square one.”
Courtesy of rt.com
The WHO Africa Region division tweeted as we speak: “So far there have been 18 instances, 9 deaths, 523 contacts, 82 % monitored and 1604 individuals vaccinated.” An outbreak has additionally been recorded within the Democratic Republic of Congo. The WHO has warned international locations neighboring Guinea weren’t ready for outbreaks or for future vaccination campaigns.
However, at current the worst-hit nation of the newest outbreak is Guinea.
It is the primary outbreak of the lethal virus there since a 2013-2016 outbreak, which was thought of the world’s worst.
The 2013-2016 outbreak unfold all through a number of West African international locations.
The lethal pathogen killed hundreds of individuals throughout its final outbreak and the WHO is fearful in regards to the newest resurgence, particularly amid the coronavirus crises.
The WHO’s Regional Emergency Director Abdou Salam Gueye mentioned: “There are six neighboring international locations to Guinea and we carried out an evaluation of readiness.
“Two of the international locations aren’t prepared and one is borderline and there are three international locations kind of prepared.”
The international locations that border Guinea are at the moment not ready to roll-out mass Ebola vaccination programmes.
Mr Gueye added: “Those neighboring international locations agreed on cross-border cooperation and coordination to management the outbreak.”
The nation has the present capability to inoculate 100 individuals per day.
This would be the first time an Ebola vaccine has been distributed within the nation.
Currently, 1604 individuals had been vaccinated in Guinea.
Bachir Kanté, an official on the well being ministry, mentioned: “In the approaching days, we will likely be in a position to vaccinate extra individuals so as to include this pandemic correctly.”
Courtesy of today-india.in
A THIRD wave of the coronavirus could hit Europe early next year if government leaders fail to take action to stem the invisible killer disease, a World Health Organisation (WHO) special COVID-19 envoy has predicted.
The WHO’s David Nabarro issued the gloomy warning, saying a third wave of the coronavirus, which has killed 1.39 million people worldwide, could strike again if governments repeat what he said was a failure to do what was needed to prevent the second wave of infections. He said Europe had “missed an opportunity” to get the first wave and then the second wave under control due to an “incomplete” response to the disease.
In an interview with Swiss newspapers, he said: “They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months after they brought the first wave under the control.
“Now we have the second wave. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure, we’ll have a third wave early next year.”
Europe briefly enjoyed sinking infection rates that are now surging again with countries, including the UK, in nationwide lockdowns to stem the virus.
Germany and France on Saturday saw cases rise by 33,000 combined, Switzerland and Austria have thousands of cases daily, while Turkey reported a record 5,532 new infections.
Mr Nabarro singled out Switzerland’s move to allow skiing – with masks required in gondolas – as other Alpine nations like Austria have shuttered resorts.
He warned Switzerland could reach a “very high level of sicknesses and deaths”.
The WHO expert told the Solothurner Zeitung: “Once the infection rates sink, and they will sink, then we can be as free as we want.
”But right now? Should ski resorts open? Under what conditions?”
Mr Nabarro also lauded the response of Asian countries like South Korea, where infections are now relatively low, adding: “People are fully engaged, they take on behaviours that make it difficult for the virus.
“They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate when they’re sick, wash hands and surfaces. They protect the most endangered groups.”
He said Asia did not relax restrictions prematurely.
Mr Nabarro added: ”You must wait until case numbers are low and stay low. Europe’s reaction was incomplete.”
His shocking warning comes despite hopes for life to go back to normal following news of two new vaccines.
Britain is on track to make COVID-19 vaccines widely available by next spring after the shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca was up to 90 percent effective in trials.
Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford University vaccine group that developed the drug, hailed an “exciting day” and added: “This means we have a vaccine for the world”.
The vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 when it was administered as a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month later, according to data from late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil. No serious safety events were confirmed, the company said.
Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration has signalled it is likely to approve in mid-December the distribution of the vaccine made by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech.
Courtesy of express.co.uk
Europe on the brink over horrifying ‘resurgence’ of coronavirus cases – latest WHO warning #COVID19 #coronavirus #WHO #pandemic #emergency #Europe
THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) has revealed Europe has seen its first increase in coronavirus infections for months in a horrifying new warning.
In eleven of those countries, the increase could cause problems in the autumn when season flu will also hit. Around 20,000 new cases and 700 deaths are being recorded daily. Regional Director Dr Hans Henri Kluge told a virtual news conference: “For weeks, I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures.
“In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality – 30 countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks.
“In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again.”
Armenia, Sweden, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kosovo have been identified as those nations.
Dr Kluge praised Poland, Germany, Spain and Israel for their responses to outbreaks.
He said WHO anticipated infections would ease over the rest of the summer.
Though, he added: “But we have indeed to prepare for the fall, when Covid-19 may meet seasonal influenza, pneumonia, other diseases as well, because ultimately the virus is still actively circulating in our communities and there is no effective treatment, no effective vaccine, yet.”
Germany and France, meanwhile have pledged to increase funding to WHO.
Jens Spahn, German Health Minister announced his country planned to give a further £451million this year.
Mr Spahn called for a coordinated response to the crisis: “Isolated national answers to international problems are doomed to fail.”
At the time of writing, Germany has had around 194,000 confirmed cases with 9,011 deaths.
Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute of Virology at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, told the NDR podcast he was fearful of a second wave.
He explained: “I am not optimistic that in a month’s time we will still have such a peaceful situation as we have now in terms of epidemic activity.
“In two months, I think we’re going to have a problem if we don’t turn on all the alarm sensors again now.”
Parts of Germany have reentered lockdown such as Gutersloh in the northwest.
Olivier Veran, French Minister for Solidarity and Health has pledged €50million (£45.2million) in direct funding with an additional €90million (£81.2million) for its Lyon research centre.
Mr Veran said: “I truly believe the world needs, more than ever, a multilateral organisation. I believe the world cannot get rid of partners.”
France has at the time of writing, had 161,000 confirmed cases and 29,752 deaths.
The nation’s top scientific advisors have warned a second wave could be deadlier than the first.
On Sunday, the government scientific council said: “An intensification of the spread of SARS-Cov-2 in the northern hemisphere, in the more or less distant future (around a few months, and especially as winter approaches), is extremely likely.”
France has the fifth highest death toll in the world.
But as the casualties have fallen from the peaks of March and April, the nation has been able to begin to reopen.
Courtesy of express.co.uk