Coronavirus News Update – Jan. 25: Merck Ends Vaccine Efforts, France Considers Third Lockdown

By Anna Breuer on 25 January 2021
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President Biden will reinstate coronavirus-related travel restrictions on non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and much of European continent. He also extended the restrictions to travelers who recently were in South Africa. The move came one week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would have lifted them on Jan. 26.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested that more needs to be done to protect the country from variants spreading elsewhere.  Johnson said that the idea of quarantining people in hotels for ten days upon arrival is “definitely” being considered. “We want to make sure we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad.”

Meanwhile, the head of the scientific council that advises the French government on the coronavirus pandemic said that the country would “probably need a new lockdown,” calling the situation an “emergency.”

On the virus front, Merck announced it would end the development of its two Covid-19 vaccines. Early clinical-trial data showed that the Merck vaccines produced inferior immune responses in subjects compared to two baselines, people who had survived the coronavirus or those who had taken one of the approved Covid-19 vaccines

Meanwhile, Moderna said its Covid-19 vaccine appeared to protect against emerging variants of the coronavirus in laboratory tests, but it will, as a precaution, begin to test whether a booster shot will improve immune response.  It said it is also developing a new vaccine that specifically targets the new Covid-19 strain that was first identified in South Africa.

Chinese manufacturers of a coronavirus vaccine are not faring well either.  Health officials in multiple countries including Brazil and Turkey are registering complaints about slow shipments, and data suggests that the vaccines cannot protect against the virus as well as those from Pfizer and Moderna.

In Pennsylvania, 18 members of one family contracted the coronavirus after a family gathering became a superspreader event.  The woman at whose home the gathering took place, Darlene Reynolds, told WPVI-TV, the local ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, that she had had a “scratchy throat” on December 26, one day before other family members were slated to arrive. She then tested positive.  “It was scary,” she said, as one family member after another, starting with her husband and daughter, tested positive as well.

The riots in the Netherlands over the weekend protesting strict lockdown measures were “criminal violence,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Monday. He warned that those participating would be treated accordingly. Hundreds of people were arrested in Amsterdam, Eindhoven, and at least eight other cities. “This is criminal violence, and we will treat it as such,” he told reporters on Monday at a news conference.

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reported that he had tested positive for the virus and had mild symptoms. He is isolating but carrying out his duties, he said.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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