Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm compared a UK coronavirus variant to a “Category 5 hurricane” churning off the coast, saying some strains could cause a “major surge” in new cases in the US.
“It’s going to take much more than vaccine to keep this variant at bay and not to have potentially a major surge in just the weeks ahead,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
A mutation that could allow Covid-19 to escape antibody protection has now been found in samples of a rapidly spreading strain in the UK, according to a report. Experts say it’s too early to predict whether this development will impact the trajectory of Covid-19 around the world.
“I think amongst my colleagues, they would agree that this variant from the United Kingdom, which is now beginning to circulate much more widely in the United States, poses a huge challenge to us. And that in just a few weeks, we could be seeing case numbers increase very dramatically,” Osterholm said on CNN’s “New Day.”
There are approximately 4,000 mutations of Covid-19 in the world right now, according to the UK’s vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Zahawi said researchers are tracking how the virus evolves and Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca are among the manufacturers working to improve their vaccines “to make sure we are ready for any variant.”
He said: “There are about 4,000 variants around the world of Covid now. We have the largest genome sequencing industry – we have about 50% of the world’s genome sequencing industry – and we are keeping a library of all the variants so that we are ready to be able to respond, whether in the autumn or beyond, to any challenge the virus may present, and produce the next vaccine so we can always protect the United Kingdom and of course offer it to the rest of the world as well.”
Some context: Professor Ravi Gupta, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said UK vaccine minister was not referring to variants “as we have come to know them.”
“Rather he is referring to individual mutations,” Gupta said, noting that, “many mutations emerge and disappear continuously. Scientists are using ‘variants’ to describe viruses with mutations that are transmitting in the general population – there aren’t 4,000 of those.”
Scientists are not surprised to see the coronavirus evolving but new variants first identified in the UK, Brazil and South Africa are worrisome as they appear more transmissible. Here’s what we know about them.
CNN went inside the British lab helping to identify and trace the spread of variants in the UK.
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American consumers may be about to get the first standards for face masks.
The coronavirus pandemic triggered a sudden intense need for masks that had many designing makeshift masks from T-shirts and bandanas. Hundreds of new and untested products flooded the marketplace with almost no oversight or regulation.
But the Wild West of personal protection equipment is set to change.
ASTM International, an international technical standards organization, and the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, are working on standards to “establish minimum design, performance (testing), labeling, user instruction, reporting and classification, and conformity assessment requirements for barrier face coverings.”
The hope here is that Americans will have guidance as to which masks actually work. Currently in draft phase, it will go for review Wednesday by ASTM International and its Subcommittee on Respiratory Hazards, which includes representatives from academia, industry stakeholders, government agencies and independent participants.
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The UK could see a “significant return to normality” once the country’s most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) member Andrew Hayward said on Thursday.
“Once the most vulnerable people — and particularly those over 50 and those with chronic illnesses are vaccinated — then yes I think we can see a significant return to normality. That in addition to the fact that coronavirus is a seasonal disease, I think will make a big difference and allow us to open up and I think what we’ll see is a phased opening up as the vaccination levels increase. And then we’ll be more or less back to normal for the summer, I would imagine,” Hayward told BBC radio.
More than 10 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“It’s fantastic that we vaccinated 10 million people but there’s still a lot of vulnerable people yet to be vaccinated so it’s too early to release just yet,” Hayward cautioned when asked about an end date for England’s current national lockdown, noting that a “continuing decline” in community cases is “the most important measure” to judge when the country could exit lockdown.
Some context: UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday that the country was “on track” to offer the top four priority groups a vaccine by mid-February.
The government is expected to announce plans to ease England out of its national lockdown on February 22.
German companies expect coronavirus lockdown measures to last until the middle of September, according to a survey conducted by the country’s Ifo economic institute published Thursday.
According to the survey, companies expect public life to be restricted for another seven months, the survey said, with their own businesses only returning to normal operation at the end of 2021. ”The start of vaccinations have not yet had a decisive effect,” the head of the Ifo surveys, Klaus Wohlrabe, said in a written statement.
Some background: On Thursday Germany recorded 14,221 new coronavirus infections — a drop of 3,332 cases compared to the same day last week, according to the country’s main public health authority, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). However, the country’s death toll remains high, with 786 deaths registered in the last 24 hours.
Last week the RKI warned that while daily infection numbers are steadily declining, the coronavirus situation in the country remains serious due to new variants of the virus, with outbreaks still being reported across the country, particularly in care homes.
German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday held conversations with parents of school-age children and talked about lockdown difficulties. ”The mutations (of the coronavirus variants) are of great concern to us,” Merkel said in the virtual meeting, adding that ”I would have wished something different for Germany other than the pandemic.”
All Israelis aged 16 and over are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Thursday.
“Come in your masses. Take advantage of a situation which exists in almost no other country in the world. This is the only way we will beat corona — together,” the minister said in a statement.
Israel has rapidly rolled out its vaccination campaign, and the government aims to inoculate the entire country by the end of March.
3.3 million people in Israel have received a first dose of the vaccine, of which more than 1.9 million have also received their second shot, figures from the Israeli health ministry show. Israel’s population is about 9 million.
As Israel’s government considers whether to further extend the lockdown from tomorrow, new case numbers remain high.
Some 7,397 new cases were reported Wednesday, with a positivity rate on tests of 8.9%. The number of fatalities stands at 4,975.
As more people around the world get access to the coronavirus vaccines, many questions remain. Will it work? Will there be side effects? Do I need to rest after I get the vaccine? Can I hang out with my friends and family now?
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, says once you have secured your vaccination appointment, make sure to follow all instructions.
“Complete paperwork if there is any that you need to do in advance,” she advises. “Bring all required documentation; some places ask for identification or proof of residency, so know what you need and make sure you have it.”
When the day arrives to head to the appointment, Wen says it’s important that you wear a mask to minimize your exposure to coronavirus while waiting in line.
Wen says after you’ve received the shot, you may have a bit of soreness in the location where you get injected.
“Many people have no symptoms beyond that. Some develop side effects in one of two categories. First, they could have more soreness, redness and swelling at the site of the injection. Second, they could have what we call systemic symptoms, meaning that they feel something throughout their body. They may develop headache, fever, fatigue and muscle aches. These could last hours and usually go away after a day,” she says.
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French forward Moussa Dembélé has become the fourth Atlético Madrid player to test positive for Covid-19 within the space of a week, the Spanish league leaders confirmed Thursday.
The club said in a statement that the forward, who joined the Madrid side on loan in January, was isolating at home in line with the league’s protocol.
Atlético announced just 24 hours earlier that club record signing João Felix had tested positive for Covid-19.
Last Saturday, defender Mario Hermoso and winger Yannick Carrasco were also confirmed to have returned positive results.
Atlético, who currently hold a 10-point lead at the top of the Spanish top-flight division with a game in hand, host Celta Vigo at home on Monday.
Trish Skinner and her husband sit on a couch, flip open their iPad cover, and open Zoom. Skinner is attending her father’s funeral. Dozens of relatives will join her on this call.
Around 100 miles away, near the southern English coast, someone holds up an iPhone as a coffin containing the body of Herbert John Tate, 103, is lowered into a wet, clay-lined grave.
The Zoom call is as much closure as Skinner, 72, can get — at least for now.
“It’s not how it’s supposed to be,” she says. “There’s no interaction, physically. And that’s the biggest thing that’s missing during this terrible time.”
Tate is one of the 2.25 million people around the world to have died after contracting the coronavirus. As well as taking the lives of their loved ones, the virus has robbed millions more of the chance to properly grieve, with funerals banned or limited to small numbers of socially distanced mourners to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.
Skinner is profoundly aware of the connection she has to others in her position. She recalls, earlier in the pandemic, seeing a news report on TV about a mass burial.
“I couldn’t imagine how people must be feeling,” she says. “And the fact that they’re losing closer loved ones — husbands and wives, children maybe — and not be allowed to be with them. (They) must be absolutely distraught.”
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