Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Feb. 20: Queen Elizabeth Tests Positive for Covid, Strife in Ottawa Continues

The BA.2 Subvariant May Pose a Greater Health Risk Than Omicron

By Jonathan Spira on 20 February 2022
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Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 51st day of 2022.

The world woke up to the news that Queen Elizabeth of Britain had tested positive for the coronavirus, despite the great precautions taken by the palace to protect the 95-year-old monarch from infection.

The highly-transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus is so insidious that it can infiltrate almost any environment.

The news comes at a rather awkward moment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was set to scrap a major coronavirus restriction in the coming week, namely the requirement that infected individuals isolate after receiving a positive test result.

Downing Street said that, under the new plan, those individuals would still be asked to avoid contact with others, adding that it was merely the legal requirement to do so was ending.

In other news we cover today, the United States will extend its pandemic emergency, the new BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant may cause more severe disease, Canada arrested dozens of protestors in Ottawa, and it turns out that Maine’s dramatic increase in cases is not cause for alarm.

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

UNITED STATES

President Joseph Biden announced on Saturday that he was extending the national emergency first declared in March 2020, which was set to expire on March 1 of this year.  The move comes just weeks before the second anniversary of the declaration of the pandemic by the World Health Organization, which took place on March 11, 2020.

Although case numbers are receding in the United States, the pandemic continues to take its toll.  Over 75,000 Americans were in hospital as of Friday and the death toll is actually increasing in 14 states and the 7-day average death toll remained at the 2,200 figure.

While it at first appeared that Maine might have had a superspreader event when it announced 10,966 new cases last Tuesday, compared to the 7-day average of 965 cases as of last Monday, it turns out that the dramatic increase was occasioned by a push by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to clear a backlog of tens of thousands of unreviewed positive coronavirus tests.

The clearing of the backlog continues.  On Saturday, the agency posted over 4,000 new cases.

Meanwhile, a man who was charged with entering the Capitol during the January 6 riot now stands accused along with a nurse of conspiring to steal, forge, and sell hundreds of coronavirus vaccination cards.  Jia Liu, of Queens, N.Y., and the nurse, Steven Rodriguez, of Long Beach, N.Y., were arrested Thursday morning and will stand trial on these charges.

GLOBAL

Queen Elizabeth tested positive for the coronavirus, Buckingham Palace said on Sunday.   The 95-year-old monarch is “experiencing mild coldlike [sic] symptoms,” the palace said in a statement.  She had recently been in close proximity to her son Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, shortly before he tested positive for the coronavirus for the second time.

The queen recently celebrated her 70th year on the throne and will turn 96 in April.

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plan to announce in the coming week that the government will end self-isolation rules for people who test positive with the coronavirus.  The move would make Britain the first major European country to allow individuals with Covid to freely shop, dine in restaurants, and go to work, something many health experts consider to be risky at best.

“Covid will not suddenly disappear, and we need to learn to live with this virus and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms,” Johnson said in a statement.

In Canada, police arrested 47 of the remaining protestors in Ottawa a day after a weeks-long protest turned violent.  On Friday, authorities began an operation to remove demonstrates along with the trucks and cars that had been blocking major downtown streets in the capital city.  Over 100 people were arrested then and 21 vehicles were towed away.  An additional 38 vehicles have since been towed as well.

Finally, research from Japan found that the BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant isn’t’ merely spreading more rapidly than the original variant, but that it may also cause more severe disease and could thwart some protection that two doses of vaccine would bestow.

Lab experiments there shows that BA.2 may have features that make it as capable of causing serious illness as the Delta variant.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Sunday, February 20.

As of Sunday morning, the world has recorded 424.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1.6 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and over 5.9 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 349.7 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 2.2 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Sunday is 68,477,777.  Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 68,695,610, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 81,967, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 46,210 new coronavirus infections on Sunday for the previous day, compared to109,223  on Saturday, 103,866  on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 106,696, a 65% 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 2,253, a decrease of 13% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Sunday, recorded 80.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 959,130. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, over 42.8 million, and a reported death toll of 511,935. Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 643,938, and has seen 28.2 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position, with over 22.2 million cases, and the United Kingdom is in the number five slot with 18.6 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Sunday, 252.8 million people in the United States – or 76.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 64.7%, or 214.7 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 549.9 million. Breaking this down further, 87.7% of the population over the age of 18 – or 226.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 74.8% of the same group – or 193.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 46.5% of that population, or 89.9 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 63.9% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Sunday, a figure that is largely unchanged in the past 24 hours, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 10.42 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 10.6% 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. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

 

 

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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