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January 18, 2022

Covid-19 update: Fourth shot of vaccine can’t prevent Omicron infections

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 5.5 million, with a figure of 5,545,923 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections surged past 330 million to a world wide figure of 330,828,618.

A fourth shot of Covid vaccine raises antibodies to even higher levels than the third jab but it is not enough to prevent Omicron infections, according to a preliminary study in Israel.

Moderna is aiming to launch a single booster vaccination that will protect against both Covid-19 and flu within two years, its chief executive said, adding that data for Omicron-specific jab will likely be available in March.

The chief executive of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, has said that while the coronavirus will continue to circulate for many years to come, this current wave should be the last to have to lead to restrictions.

The International Labor Organization downgraded its employment forecast, projecting a world shortfall of 52 million full-time jobs in 2022 relative to the fourth quarter of 2019. The global unemployment rate is expected to remain above pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023, the ILO said. Uncertainty created by Covid-19 variants continues to weigh on the jobs market – particularly in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the Geneva-based organization said Monday.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 66 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 851,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said it’s too soon to say whether the Omicron variant will herald a shift in the Covid-19 pandemic to endemic. “It’s an open question as to whether or not omicron is going to be the live virus vaccination everyone is hoping for because we have so much variability with new variants emerging,” Fauci said Monday at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda online conference. The fact that the virus’s mutations appear to be able to evade some immune response through vaccines and infection will make achieving herd immunity difficult, he said.

Travellers to Hawaii may soon need to have supplemented their vaccinations with a booster does in order to visit the islands without having to quarantine.

Canada: New rules requiring truckers to show proof of vaccination when crossing the Canada-US border are cutting into shipping capacity and boosting the cost of hauling everything from broccoli to tomatoes. The cost of transporting produce out of California and Arizona to Canada jumped 25% last week as fewer trucks are available to cross the border, according to George Pitsikoulis, president and chief executive officer of Montreal-based distributor Canadawide Fruits.

Europe

EU: The EU should continue to suspend strict fiscal rules to help debt-mired countries such as Italy until the pandemic is over, the new chairman of the German parliament’s powerful EU affairs committee has said.

France: French teachers’ unions have called for a second major strike this week to protest the government’s Covid testing and isolation protocols, which they say are severely disrupting classes. France’s parliament has given final approval to the government’s latest measures to tackle Covid-19, including a vaccine pass contested by anti-vaccine protesters.

UK: Almost two thirds of British adults feel the government should share coronavirus vaccines with the world rather than deliver additional boosters domestically, polling suggests.

A  review of the so-called Plan B Covid curbs in place in England could come as soon as this week, Reuters reported, citing a senior figure in the UK government. Current measures include mandatory Covid passes to gain access to venues and large events and, as well as requirements to wear masks on public transport and advice to work from home if possible. These are set to expire on 26 January.

Switzerland: The chairman of Credit Suisse, António Horta-Osório, has resigned after the Swiss bank reportedly found that he had broken Covid-19 quarantine laws.

Poland: Poland is experiencing a fifth wave of Covid-19 infections, the health minister said on Monday, warning that the spread of the Omicron variant could send daily case numbers soaring to levels not yet seen in the country.

Uzbekistan:  Uzbekistan has reported 1,037 new daily Covid cases, the highest number on record.

Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan reported a record 13,523 cases on Sunday, and the Kazakh government has announced middle and high school students in the country’s three largest cities would study remotely until the end of March.

Asia pacific

Japan: The Tokyo government will seek stricter measures as a new wave of infections fills up hospital beds. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to speak with ministers and make a decision as early as Wednesday, broadcaster FNN reported earlier. Governor Yuriko Koike said that occupancy of hospital beds designated for Covid patients in the city is expected to surpass 20% – a threshold she set to seek a quasi-emergency. In Tokyo about 19% of beds were occupied as of Sunday. Japan reported more than 25,000 new cases each day over the weekend. Tokyo recorded 4,172 new cases Sunday, more than tripling versus a week ago. Japan didn’t report any deaths on Sunday, according to NHK

.Japan is also set to halt implementation of its so-called vaccine-and-testing package, a government system that checks whether people have been vaccinated twice or have proof of a negative test in order to access a range of public activities, sources told the Japan Times.

Japan will bring forward its Covid vaccination booster shots by as much as two months while also considering placing 11 prefectures, including Tokyo and its surrounding area, under a quasi-state of emergency to curb a rapidly accelerating sixth wave of infections.

Thailand: Thailand is considering bringing back a quarantine waiver for vaccinated visitors, its health minister said on Monday, as part of a proposed easing of some Covid measures later this week.

China: The number of Covid-19 cases across China reached the highest level since March 2020 on Monday, as the country reported a daily rise of 223 new infections.

Several cities in China are now on a high Covid alert in preparation for the lunar new year holiday travel season when hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel around the country. Cities such as Luoyang in central China and Jieyang in the south now require residents to report details of their trips in advance.

Chinese authorities are urging citizens not to order goods from overseas, claiming a recent Omicron infection detected in Beijing came from an international package sent from Canada. There is not a strong scientific basis to the claim, according to experts.

Beijing Winter Olympics tickets will not be sold to general public in latest Covid setback.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong police have arrested and charged two former Cathay Pacific flight attendants over allegations they broke the city’s coronavirus rules.

Australia: Case numbers are just coming in across Australia this morning, confirming the country has hit a new bleak pandemic milestone. A record 74 deaths have been reported from the country’s two most populous states of NSW and Victoria with 36 deaths and 22 deaths respectively. It’s the highest daily toll of the pandemic for Australia to date.

Middle-east and Africa

Africa: The African Union indicated to Moderna Inc. two weeks ago that it does not want the vaccines that the company will have available for them for the second quarter of this year, Moderna Chief Executive Office Stephane Bancel said at a virtual World Economic Forum event. “What I’m hearing from colleagues on the ground is that low-income countries struggle on how to get those shots in arms,” Bancel said. “I don’t think the problem is access to doses anymore. It’s really getting those shots into arms and I think we should be able to do more to help low-income countries to get people vaccinated.”

Angola: Angola lifted most Covid-19 restrictions, reopening schools and gymnasiums and allowing restaurants and supermarkets to extend their trading hours. The country reported 170 new cases on Sunday, down from more than 3,000 a day at the end of last month, the Health Ministry said Monday. The test positivity rate is 13.6%. The government still requires citizens, including children 12 and older, to get vaccinated to access public places such as schools and state offices. Beaches and public swimming pools remain closed and no tourists are allowed.

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