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February 28, 2022

Covid-19 update: Evidence claimed for Huanan market as Covid source

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.9 million, with a figure of 5,948,739 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 435 million to a world wide figure of 435,283,687.

Researchers tracing the emergence of Covid-19 say they found more evidence implicating the now-infamous Huanan seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Spatial analyses of early cases point to the sprawling market as the epicenter of the outbreak’s emergence, according to research released ahead of peer-review and publication.

A separate paper found the SARS-CoV-2 probably spilled over from animals on two separate occasions, spawning distinct lineages that spread from the market in late November 2019. A third paper by Chinese government scientists provides “convincing evidence” of the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in the market during the early stage of outbreak, where ten stalls had been selling a menagerie of live, “domesticated wildlife,” including deer, badgers, rabbits, bamboo rats, porcupines, hedgehogs, salamanders and crocodiles.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 78.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 948,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Emergency room visits for eating disorders among 12- to 17-year-old girls doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a troubling existing trend that is likely to have been worsened by the stress of living through the prolonged crisis.

New York will lift the state’s mask mandate indoors in schools on March 2 due to lower infections and hospitalizations across the state and less strict guidance from US health authorities, Governor Kathy Hochul announced in a Sunday press briefing in Albany.

Europe

Sweden: Sweden’s no-lockdown strategy to deal with Covid was broadly correct but early measures should have been more rigorous and intrusive, a government-appointed commission said on Friday in its final report on the country’s pandemic response.

Germany: Germany does not have leeway to ease Covid restrictions more quickly, and Germans should not think that the pandemic is over as the number of new daily infections is still very high, the German health minister,, Karl Lauterbach, said on Friday.

UK: In the UK, almost 5 million Covid shots have been thrown away, according to an official report.

Meanwhile, The UK’s data watchdog has reprimanded the Scottish government and NHS National Services Scotland over their failure to inform people how their personal information is used by the NHS Scotland Covid Status app.

Asia pacific

Hong Kong: Hong Kong has contracted the mainland firm China State Construction International Holdings Ltd to build eight isolation and treatment facilities to help the global financial hub fight a worsening Covid outbreak, its government said.

Hong Kong saw a record 26,026 new cases on Sunday and 83 deaths, making the outbreak much bigger than any the zero-tolerance approach pioneered by China has ever quelled.

Hong Kong plans to use more than 100,000 electronic wristbands to monitor Covid-19 patients who are isolating at home, according to local media, who cited the technology minister. The wristbands, which would pair with a tracking app, will be given to patients who are in home self-isolation while awaiting admittance to hospitals.

China official, Liang Wannian, will advise the city in its fight against the virus, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people. Hong Kong authorities are warning that cases haven’t peaked yet. The visit is a sign that China is treating the situation in Hong Kong as dire and requiring top-level guidance, the newspaper reported, adding that Hong Kong’s first makeshift mobile cabin hospitals will begin operating Monday.

China is preparing to send a team of about 9,000 people to help with Hong Kong’s compulsory testing anytime, the Sing Tao Daily reported, citing an official from China’s National Health Commission. Test samples, if needed, can also be sent to Guangdong which can process 1.2 million to 1.5 million tests a day, which is much higher than Hong Kong’s daily capacity of 300,000, acccording to the report, which cited Li Dachuan, the commission’s deputy director of the medical administration bureau. Hong Kong hasn’t ruled out a lockdown during citywide mandatory Covid testing, Commercial Radio Hong Kong reported, citing Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan.

China: China reported its highest daily count of Covid cases arriving from outside the mainland in nearly two years, with infections mostly from Hong Kong.

The Southern Chinese province of Guangdong is trying to contain a fresh cluster out of its key manufacturing hub Dongguan, home to factories churning out electronic devices, toys and clothing. Some 50 infections have been found since late last week, with most in the city’s densely populated industrial park.  Meanwhile, coastal city Tianjin is also weeding out infections stemming from the city’s airport, leading to hundreds of flights being cancelled. Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, is seeing its local outbreak worsening, as daily cases climbed to 30 on Monday. Overall, China reported 140 new cases on Monday.

New Zealand: The country is removing the requirement for vaccinated travelers to self-isolate, a sign that the rapidly spreading omicron outbreak is making border restrictions pointless. From midnight on 2 March, vaccinated New Zealanders arriving from Australia will no longer need to serve a week of self-isolation and will only have to return two negative rapid antigen tests. The government also brought forward the date from which New Zealanders in other countries can return home, to midnight 4 March from 13 March. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also signalled that she will speed up the phased reopening of the border, potentially allowing tourists from anywhere in the world to return much sooner than the current October start date.

Indonesia: Indonesia will no longer require international passengers in Bali to isolate upon arrival under a trial program that starts in March, with the intention to lift all quarantine requirements by April. Arriving passengers will still have to take a PCR test and stay inside their pre-booked accommodation while waiting for the result, according to a briefing Sunday.

Philippines: The Philippines will further ease movement restrictions and remove capacity limits on most businesses in the capital region as daily coronavirus infections stay low. Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of economic output, will shift to the lowest alert level from March 1 to 15, according to a statement Sunday. Under Alert Level 1, businesses including restaurants and gyms can operate at full capacity.

Thailand: Thailand’s coronavirus daily cases held near an all-time high on Saturday, with 24,719 cases reported on Sunday. There were 42 new virus-related deaths reported. More than 25,600 infections were reported the day before

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