Coronavirus Morning News Brief – March 18: Long Covid ‘Is a Beast,’ Patient Infected by 2 Omicron Subvariants at Same Time

Unvaccinated Novak Djokovic Denied Entry to U.S. for Miami Open

By Jonathan Spira on 18 March 2023
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A panda at the Chengdu Panda Base

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,102nd day of the pandemic.

The World Health Organization on Friday said that the pandemic stage of the coronavirus disease could be over in 2023.  SARS-CoV-3 could become “just like the flu,” the WHO said.

March 11  marked three years since the WHO first said that the then novel coronavirus had become a “pandemic” although the organization’s chief, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, continues to insist that countries should have taken stronger action several weeks earlier.

“I think we’re coming to that point where we can look at Covid-19 in the same way we look at seasonal influenza”  said Michael Ryan, the organization’s emergencies director, at a press conference.

“A threat to health, a virus that will continue to kill. But a virus that is not disrupting our society or disrupting our hospital systems, and I believe that that will come, as Tedros said, this year.”

In other news we cover today, a study found that Long Covid is slightly less common as an outcome of omicron subvariant infections than from earlier variants, a Chinese patient is the first to become infected by two omicron subvariants at once, and Novak Djokovic was again denied entry into the United States.


A study billed as the largest of its kind found that Long Covid symptoms are less common now than earlier in the pandemic.  Americans who were infected with the omicron variant or one of its sublineages are less likely to contract Long Covid that those who had SARS-CoV-2 earlier in the pandemic.  The study of 5 million patients in the United States was conducted by the Washington Post and research partners.   It shows that 1 in 16 people who contract the omicron variant received care for Long Covid symptoms within several months of infection, while 1 patient in 12 who was  exposed to the virus during the first wave of the pandemic, a period running from early 2020 through late spring 2021.

The reasons for the shifting reasons are conjecture at best.

“Long covid is a complicated beast,” Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a major researcher into the disease, told the Washington Post.


Health officials in China reported the country’s first case of a patient infected with two Omicron subvariants at the same time. In a paper published on Friday in China CDC Weekly, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the patient was a 67-year-old woman living  in Yunyang county, Chongqing.  The woman tested positive in two samples for a virus that contained features of subvariants BA.5.2.48 and BF.7.14.

In Hong Kong, officials reported outbreaks of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus as well as hand, foot, and mouth disease following the end of the city’s mask mandate. The report, by a local pediatrician, Dr. Patrick Ip Pak-keung of the University of Hong Kong, said children there were facing “different challenges” at this stage of the pandemic.

“When we all take off our masks and have more social activities, which I encourage, viral infections become widespread at the same time,” he told a radio station.

The doctor’s earlier research found that children experienced poorer sleep quality and had less physical exercise, instead spending hours glued to their tablets and smartphones.  In the report he called on parents to take their children hiking and encourage more outdoor exercise.

“Parents should not give the electronic devices to kids and let them play video games, and they should also not only just stay at home to do homework,” he said.


The British government announced plans to  end the requirement Chinese travelers arriving in England to provide proof of a negative pre-departure coronavirus test. The change goes into effect on April 5.


Novak Djokovic, who was famously deported from Australia last year after trying to enter without being vaccinated for the coronavirus and who holds some fairly bizarre medical beliefs, will miss the Miami Open, a Masters 1000 event that starts on March 19, after being denied entry into the United States due to his non-vaccinated status.  Djokovic is currently missing the Indian Wells Masters for the same reason.


Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, March 18.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 682.4 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million from the previous day, and just under 6.82 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 655.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.1 million.

The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturday at press time is 20,255,269, an increase of 28,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,215,075, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,194, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past four months.

The United States reported 54,460 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 137,629reported on Thursday,  20,174 reported on Wednesday, 13,115 reported on Tuesday, 1,005 reported on Monday, 1,489 reported on Sunday, 10,161 reported on Saturday, and 55,447 reported on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 26,496.  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 23,068, a figure down 32% over the past 15 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 333, a decrease of 38% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 22,546, a decrease of 15%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,017 a decrease of 15% and the test positivity rate is now 7.2%, a figure that is down by 15% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded 105.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.15 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,799.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 39.7 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.3 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 699,634, has recorded 37.1 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with just under 33.4 million cases, South Korea, with just under 30.7 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 25.6 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.4 million, and Russia, with 22.5 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 269.7 million people in the United States – or 81.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.3%, or 230.2 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 673 million. Breaking this down further, 92.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.9 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79% of the same group – or 204.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 19.8% of the same population, or 51.1 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 22.9 million people over the age of 65, or 41.8% of that population have also received the bivalent booster.

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 69.7% 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, 13.33 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 362,338 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 28.2% 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 at or below 10%.

In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Paul Riegler  contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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