Connect with us

Coronavirus

Analysis-Test, test, test? Scientists question costly mass COVID checks

Published

on

2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wait in line at a free coronavirus disease (COVID-19) antigen test centre, where getting to the front of the line took about an hour and a half, in central Copenhagen, Denmark, April 23, 2021. REUTERS/Tim Barsoe/File Photo

2/2

By Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jennifer Rigby

COPENHAGEN/LONDON (Reuters) – For many people worldwide, having cotton swabs thrust up their nose or down their throat to test for COVID-19 has become a routine and familiar annoyance.

But two years into the pandemic, health officials in some countries are questioning the merits of repeated, mass testing when it comes to containing infections, particularly considering the billions it costs.

Chief among them is Denmark, which championed one of the world’s most prolific COVID testing regimes early on. Lawmakers are now demanding a close study of whether that policy was effective.

“We’ve tested so much more than other countries that we might have overdone it,” said Jens Lundgren, professor of infectious diseases at Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, and member of the government’s COVID advisory group.

Japan avoided large-scale testing and yet weathered the pandemic relatively well, based on infection and death rates. Other countries, including Britain and Spain, have scaled back testing.

Yet repeated testing of entire cities remains a central part of the “zero-COVID” plan in China, where leaders have threatened action against critics.

“We need to learn, and no one did it perfectly,” said Dale Fisher, chair of the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.

The WHO urged countries to “test, test, test” all suspected cases after the coronavirus was first identified. Global surveillance helped scientists understand the risk of severe illness or death, as well as the risk of transmission.

Now, with the dominance of the relatively milder Omicron variant and the availability of vaccines and more effective treatments, governments should consider more strategic policies, such as population sampling, experts said.

Pulling back too drastically, however, could leave the world blind to a still-changing virus, some officials said.

SIGNIFICANT COSTS

WHO guidelines have never recommended mass screening of asymptomatic individuals – as is currently happening in China – because of the costs involved and the lack of data on its effectiveness.

Denmark ultimately recorded similar case numbers and death rates as other countries with less widespread testing. This has prompted a majority of parties in parliament to call for an investigation into the strategy.

    In the last two years, Denmark’s population of 5.8 million logged more than 127 million rapid and PCR tests, all provided free. In total, Denmark spent more than 16 billion crowns ($2.36 billion) on testing, according to the Danish Critical Supply Agency.

Neighbouring Norway, with a similar population size, only performed 11 million PCR tests, while Sweden, home to nearly twice as many people, completed around 18 million, according to Our World in Data.

    Christine Stabell Benn, professor of global health at University of Southern Denmark, said Denmark’s strategy was expensive and results “undocumented”.

“The mass testing approach took away the focus from testing where it really matters: among the vulnerable.”

  Other experts – and the Danish government – said widespread testing reduced the transmission rate and helped people re-enter society, boosting the economy and their own mental health. The economy took a relatively milder hit than other European countries, according to a government report released in September.

“There is no doubt that the human and economic costs of, for example, an extensive lockdown, as we have seen in many other countries, would be greater,” Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup told Reuters in an email.

EVIDENCE

One Danish study published last year concluded that the testing programme and subsequent isolation of confirmed cases helped reduce transmission by up to 25%.

Other disease experts question such estimates. A review published in Medical Virology in late March on the use of rapid tests for people without symptoms in mass screening initiatives found “uncertainty” over their impact.

“The claim was that (mass testing) would stop the pandemic in its tracks, and that it would cut transmission by 90%. And it hasn’t,” said Angela Raffle, a senior lecturer at Bristol University Medical School, who has worked with the UK’s National Screening Committee.

There are several possible explanations why testing did not yield a bigger benefit, including an over-ambitious target and the fact that the tests were imperfect. Plus many people either did not or could not isolate after testing positive: a review in the British Medical Journal, pre-Omicron, found that only 42.5% of such cases stayed home for the entire isolation period.

In England, free COVID tests are now only available for government healthcare workers, those with certain health conditions and people entering hospital. Others, even with symptoms, have to pay for tests or are simply advised to stay at home until they feel better. 

Some global health experts say such a pullback goes too far.

“In some settings, because politicians have decided to ‘move on’ and dismantle all public health, testing has been deliberately reduced or made harder to access,” said Madhu Pai, a global health professor at McGill University in Canada.

“This will be disastrous, because we will be completely caught off guard if a more dangerous variant emerges.”

Coronavirus

Shanghai reopens some public transport, still on high COVID alert

Published

on

3/3

© Reuters. A staff member in a protective suit stands on a platform of a subway station, on the first day of parts of city’s subway services resumed, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Brenda Goh

2/3

By Brenda Goh and Martin Quin Pollard

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Shanghai reopened a small part of the world’s longest subway system on Sunday after some lines had been closed for almost two months, as the city paves the way for a more complete lifting of its painful COVID-19 lockdown next week.

With most residents not allowed to leave their homes and restrictions tightening in parts of China’s most populous city, commuters early on Sunday needed strong reasons to travel.

Shanghai’s lockdown and curbs in other cities have battered consumption, industrial output and other sectors of the Chinese economy in recent months, prompting pledges of support from policymakers.

Many who ventured out in the commercial hub wore blue protective gowns and face shields. Inside the carriages, passengers were seen keeping some empty seats between themselves. Crowds were small.

Xu Jihua, a migrant construction worker, arrived at a subway stop before it opened at 7 a.m., hoping to get to a rail station, then home to the eastern province of Anhui.

“Work stopped on March 16,” said Xu, adding he had not been able to earn his monthly 7,000-8,000 yuan ($1,000-$1,100) salary since then and would only return to Shanghai once he was sure he could find work.

“Is the lockdown really lifting or not? It’s not very clear.”

A woman who asked only to be identified by her surname Li said she needed to visit her father in a hospital 8 km (5 miles) from her final stop.

“I’m going to the heart hospital, but I don’t know whether there will be any cars or transport once I get to the railway station,” Li said. “I might have to walk there.”

Four of the 20 lines reopened, and 273 bus routes. Some had closed in late March, others later, although sporadic service continued with a limited number of stops.

The city of 25 million expects to lift its city-wide lockdown and return to more normal life from June 1. Most restrictions on movement will remain in place this month.

Shanghai’s 800-km metro system averaged 7.7 million rides a day in 2020, according to the latest data, with an annual passenger throughput of 2.8 billion.

Trains will run 20 minutes apart for limited hours. Commuters must scan their body temperature at the entrance and show negative results of PCR tests taken within 48 hours.

UNEXPLAINED CURBS

Shanghai has gradually reopened convenience stores and wholesale markets and allowed more people to walk out of their homes, with community transmissions largely eliminated.

Still, parts of the city have recently tightened curbs, underlying the difficulty of resuming normal life under China’s zero-COVID policy, which is increasingly at odds with the rest of the world.

Jingan, a key commercial district, said on Saturday it will require all shops to shut and residents to stay home until at least Tuesday, as it carries out mass testing.

The use of exit permits, previously given to residents that allowed them to leave their homes for short walks will be suspended, authorities said without giving a reason.

Similar actions were announced on Friday in the Hongkou district as well as on Saturday by Qingpu district’s Zhaoxiang town, which said they wanted to “consolidate” the results of their epidemic prevention efforts so far.

Shanghai reported fewer than 700 daily cases on Sunday. Significantly, none was outside quarantined areas, as they have been the case for much of the past week. The capital Beijing reported 61 cases, down from 70.

Beijing has been gradually tightening restrictions since April 22, with many shops closed, public transport curtailed and residents asked to work from home. But it still struggles to eliminate an outbreak of dozens of new infections a day.

Tianjin, a key northeastern port, found 36 new cases on Saturday, CCTV reported.

Regulators said on Friday they will streamline the process of equity and bond issuance by companies hit by the pandemic, and urged brokerages and fund managers to channel more money into virus-hit sectors.

($1 = 6.6921 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Continue Reading

Coronavirus

WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally

Published

on


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of rash development in 1968. CDC/Handout via REUTERS

By Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) -The World Health Organization said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.

As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, the U.N. agency said, adding it will provide further guidance and recommendations in coming days for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.

“Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic”, the agency added.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through such measures as self-isolation and hygiene. See EXPLAINER:

“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, told Reuters.

Heymann said an international committee of experts met via video conference to look at what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is any asymptomatic spread, who are at most risk, and the various routes of transmission.

He said the meeting was convened “because of the urgency of the situation”. The committee is not the group that would suggest declaring a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest form of alert, which applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said close contact was the key transmission route, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health workers, which is why some countries have started inoculating teams treating monkeypox patients using vaccines for smallpox, a related virus.

Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.

Early genomic sequencing of a handful of the cases in Europe has suggested a similarity with that spread in a limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.

Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” the virus had been circulating outside of the countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

He stressed that the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not transmit as easily. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or who show symptoms including bumpy rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.

“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself,” he added.

Continue Reading

Coronavirus

WHO working on more monkeypox guidance as cases rise – senior adviser

Published

on


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification on day four of rash development in 1968. CDC/Handout via REUTERS

By Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is working on further guidance for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox, amid concerns cases could spike further in the summer months, a senior adviser for the U.N. agency told Reuters.

The WHO’s working theory based on the cases identified so far is that the outbreak is being driven by sexual contact, said David Heymann, chair of the WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential. He led a meeting on the outbreak on Friday.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, which means it can be relatively easily contained through such measures as self-isolation and hygiene once a new case is identified. See EXPLAINER:

The outbreak in 11 countries where it is not endemic is highly unusual, according to scientists. More than 100 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported, most of them in Europe.

Heymann, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said experts were likely to give more guidance to countries in the coming days. Health officials in several countries have warned that cases could rise further at major summer gatherings and festivals.

“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” Heymann said.

He said the WHO’s meeting was convened “because of the urgency of the situation”. The committee is not the group that would suggest declaring a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest form of alert, which currently applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead Heymann said the international committee of experts, which met via video conference, looked at what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is any asymptomatic spread, who are at most risk, and what the various routes of transmission are.

He said close contact was the key transmission route for the virus as the lesions that are typical of the disease are very infectious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as well as health workers, which is why some countries have started inoculating the teams treating monkeypox patients using vaccines for smallpox, a related virus.

Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.

Early genomic sequencing of a handful of the cases in Europe has suggested a similarity with that spread in a limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.

Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” that the virus had since been circulating outside of the countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.

He stressed that the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not transmit as easily. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or who are showing symptoms, including the typical bumpy rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.

“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself,” he added.

Continue Reading

News

Cryptocurrency7 hours ago

Technical Analysis Suggests That DOGE Price Will Fall In Next 24H

© Reuters. Technical Analysis Suggests That DOGE Price Will Fall In Next 24H The number 10 place on CoinMarketCap’s list...

Economy7 hours ago

As bear market looms, battered Wall St seeks elusive ‘Fed put’

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City,...

Commodities7 hours ago

Kyiv rules out ceasefire as Russia steps up offensive in Ukraine’s east

6/6 © Reuters. A local resident walks by a destroyed building after a rocket attack on a university campus, amid...

World10 hours ago

Analysis-Australian women unleash new political force on climate, integrity

3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Voters line up outside a Marrickville suburb polling station to cast their ballots on the...

World10 hours ago

In Japan, Biden to launch economic plan for region sceptical on benefits

3/3 © Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks with Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung (not pictured) on the...

World10 hours ago

Biden says ‘everybody’ should be concerned about monkeypox outbreak

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden pauses while speaking during a briefing from senior officials on efforts to...

Coronavirus12 hours ago

Shanghai reopens some public transport, still on high COVID alert

3/3 © Reuters. A staff member in a protective suit stands on a platform of a subway station, on the...

Stock Markets13 hours ago

Hyundai Motor Group to invest more than $10 billion in U.S. up to 2025

3/3 © Reuters. Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung delivers remarks along with U.S. President Joe Biden on the automaker’s...

Cryptocurrency13 hours ago

The truth behind the misconceptions holding liquid staking back

The truth behind the misconceptions holding liquid staking back Blockchains have relied on proof-of-work (PoW) validation since their inception. Yet...

World13 hours ago

Australia’s Labor to retake power after 9 years, independents may hold sway

3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Anthony Albanese, leader of Australia’s Labor Party, addresses supporters after incumbent Prime Minister and Liberal...

Stock Markets14 hours ago

Analysis-Tesla brand threatened by Musk harassment claim, criticism of Democrats

3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks about new Autopilot features during a Tesla event in Palo...

Stock Markets14 hours ago

Hyundai Motor Group to invest $5 billion in U.S. up to 2025

3/3 © Reuters. Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung delivers remarks along with U.S. President Joe Biden on the automaker’s...

Commodities14 hours ago

Ukraine rules out ceasefire as fighting intensifies in Donbas

5/5 © Reuters. A local resident walks by a destroyed building after a rocket attack on a university campus, amid...

World14 hours ago

Biden says ‘hello’ to N.Korea’s Kim amid tensions over weapons tests

3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a politburo meeting of the Worker’s Party...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

Florida Rep. Donalds introduces Financial Freedom Act companion bill in the House

Florida Rep. Donalds introduces Financial Freedom Act companion bill in the House Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican, introduced the...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

FCA will ‘absolutely’ consider recent stablecoin depegging when drafting crypto rules: Report

FCA will ‘absolutely’ consider recent stablecoin depegging when drafting crypto rules: Report Sarah Pritchard, the executive director of markets at...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

Finance Redefined: Lifeline for Terra projects, proposed Terra hard fork and more

Finance Redefined: Lifeline for Terra projects, proposed Terra hard fork and more The past week in the decentralized finance (DeFi)...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

MSP Recovery joins forces with Tokenology to release tokenized healthcare initiative

MSP Recovery joins forces with Tokenology to release tokenized healthcare initiative MSP Recovery LLC, a healthcare recovery firm based in...

Coronavirus17 hours ago

WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

3 red flags that signal a crypto project may be misleading investors

3 red flags that signal a crypto project may be misleading investors Satoshi Nakamoto left a large pair of shoes...

World17 hours ago

As Russia intensifies push for Donbas, Ukraine rules out ceasefire

5/5 © Reuters. A bus carrying service members of the Ukrainian armed forces, who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

20% drop in the S&P 500 puts stocks in a bear market, Bitcoin and altcoins follow

20% drop in the S&P 500 puts stocks in a bear market, Bitcoin and altcoins follow Whoever coined the phrase...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

Do Kwon faces legal trouble in South Korea, China remains Bitcoin mining powerhouse, and Ethereum 2.0 eyes ‘huge testing milestone’: Hodler’s Digest, May 15-21

Do Kwon faces legal trouble in South Korea, China remains Bitcoin mining powerhouse, and Ethereum 2.0 eyes ‘huge testing milestone’:...

Cryptocurrency17 hours ago

OpenSea launches ‘Seaport’ ​​marketplace protocol allowing NFT bartering

OpenSea launches ‘Seaport’ ​​marketplace protocol allowing NFT bartering Nonfungible token marketplace OpenSea has announced the launch of a Web3 marketplace...

Cryptocurrency20 hours ago

Crypto gaming and the monkey run: How we should build the future of GameFi

Crypto gaming and the monkey run: How we should build the future of GameFi You’ve seen it before. An amazingly...

Cryptocurrency20 hours ago

Altcoin prices briefly rebounded, but derivatives metrics predict worsening conditions

Altcoin prices briefly rebounded, but derivatives metrics predict worsening conditions On May 12, the total crypto market capitalization reached its...

Cryptocurrency20 hours ago

3K+ Bit Digital hosting partner’s crypto miners go offline after explosion and fire

3K+ Bit Digital hosting partner’s crypto miners go offline after explosion and fire New York-headquartered crypto mining firm Bit Digital...

Stock Markets20 hours ago

Siemens Energy launches $4.3 billion bid for remaining Siemens Gamesa stake

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A model of a wind turbine with the Siemens Gamesa logo is displayed outside the annual...

Cryptocurrency21 hours ago

Price analysis 5/20: BTC, ETH, BNB, XRP, ADA, SOL, DOGE, DOT, AVAX, SHIB

Price analysis 5/20: BTC, ETH, BNB, XRP, ADA, SOL, DOGE, DOT, AVAX, SHIB Bitcoin’s (BTC) tight correlation with the legacy...

World21 hours ago

New York judge approves congressional map, throwing Democrats into disarray

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People fill out ballots during voting in the New York primary election at a polling site...

Trending