Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Sept. 7: Major Earthquake Shakes Chengdu While Under Lockdown, Japan Relaxes Travel Curbs

School of Chinese Medicine in Hong Kong to Offer Free Long Covid Treatments

By Jonathan Spira on 7 September 2022
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A man sweeping in a park in Chengdu before the earthquake

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 881st day of the pandemic.

As new bivalent mRNA vaccines targeting, in part, the highly-infectious BA.5 sublineage of the omicron variant begin to become available, the United States is moving towards recommending annual coronavirus vaccinations, health officials in the Biden administration said.

Emphasizing convenience, officials are indicating that people could get the new boosters this fall alongside their regular annual flu shots.

In a separate statement, President Joe Biden said that, for most Americans, “that means one Covid-19 shot, once a year, each fall.”

White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha called the move to an annual shot “an important milestone” at a news conference Tuesday, saying that, for “a large majority of Americans, we are moving to a point where a single annual Covid shot should provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year.”

In other news we cover today, Japan relaxed some entry restrictions for visitors, the similar color scheme of booster dose vials may be problematic, and Hong Kong’s Baptist University has a possible course of treatment for Long Covid.

Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.

UNITED STATES

As new booster doses roll out, some pharmacists and physicians are expressing concern over the similarity of the capped vials that doses come in to older versions of the vaccine.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s updated booster comes in vials that have a gray cap with gray labeling, which is the same color scheme as its original vaccine, the one still in use for primary vaccinations.  Moderna’s updated booster comes with a dark blue cap with grey labeling, while its original formulation comes with a red one.  However, the drugmaker’s primary vaccination for children also comes with a blue cap and grey labeling.

GLOBAL

Traditional Chinese medicine may have some good news for Long Covid sufferers.  The Chinese medicine school at Hong Kong’s Baptist University is set to launch a Long Covid treatment plan that will be offered to up to 50,000 residents afflicted with the condition.  It will include consultations and medication at no charge, the university said.

“Many recovered patients have Long Covid symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, insomnia, hair loss, skin irritation, and fatigue,” said Professor Bian Zhaoxiang, associate vice-president of Chinese medicine development at the university, in a statement. “Chinese medicine has rich experience in treating these symptoms effectively,” he added.

Meanwhile, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake centered approximately 125 miles (200 kilometers) from Chengdu, a city whose 22 million residents are currently under a strict lockdown, killed at least 65 people in the region and tremors shook the city that is home to China’s Panda population.   Authorities there prevented residents from leaving their apartment buildings by locking exterior doors.  Video online shows workers in top-to-bottom protective gear engaged in such action.

Finally, the coming weekend marks in China the mid-autumn festival, a three-day weekend, and authorities are telling residents to avoid unnecessary trips.  The festival comes as the country is seeing an uptick in cases, with 66 million people currently in cities and towns that are under lockdown measures.

TRAVEL

Japan relaxed some of its coronavirus-related border controls Wednesday.

The government raised the daily ceiling of inbound visitors to 50,000 from 20,000.  It also ended a requirement for visitors as well as returning residents to present a negative pre-departure coronavirus test.  However, tourist visas are still required and individual travel is not yet permitted.  Tourists must travel in government-organized and supervised groups.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, September 7.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 611.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million cases, and 6.5 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 589.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.8 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday is 15,797,508, a decrease of 169,000. Out of that figure, 99.7%, or 15,755,564, are considered mild, and 0.3%, or 41,944, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 125,894 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 16,508 on Tuesday, 5,823 on Monday, 7,437 on Sunday, 88,353 on Saturday, and 108,660 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate is now 72,746.  Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 75,359, an 18% decrease, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 420, a decrease of 10% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 34,864, a 12% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded over 96.7 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1.07 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, close to 44.5 million, and a reported death toll of 528,057.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of May, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 820,307, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat reported that 4,991 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in June, down from 7,008 in May and from 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, 34.62 million, although Brazil has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 684,846, and has recorded 34.54 million cases, placing it in the number four slot.

Germany is in the number five slot with over 32.3 million cases.

The other three countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 23.8 million cases, moving into the number six position on Wednesday, the United Kingdom, with 23.52 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 21.9 million, as number eight.

Meanwhile, Russia, with over 19.8 million recorded cases, will likely cross the 20 million mark within under two weeks.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of this past Thursday, over 262.9 million people in the United States – or 79.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 67.5%, or 224.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 610 million. Breaking this down further, 90.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 232.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 77.3% of the same group – or 199.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 51.6% of that population, or 103.1 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 67.7% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 12.61 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 4.67 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 21% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

In addition, North Korea and Eritrea are now the only two countries in the world that have not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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