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Coronavirus

China’s growing COVID-19 outbreak tests vulnerable border towns

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has reported nearly 250 locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 since the start of the current outbreak 10 days ago, with many infections in remote towns along porous international borders in the country’s northwest.

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China's growing COVID-19 outbreak tests vulnerable border towns
© Reuters. A medical worker administers a dose of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a child in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, China October 26, 2021. Picture taken October 26, 2021. China Daily via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has reported nearly 250 locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 since the start of the current outbreak 10 days ago, with many infections in remote towns along porous international borders in the country’s northwest.

China had 50 new local cases for Oct. 26, the highest daily count since Sept. 16, official data showed on Wednesday.

The overall number is tiny versus many clusters outside the country. It is also modest compared with more than 1,200 local cases reported during China’s July-August outbreak and the more than 2,000 cases in January during the last winter.

However, the steady increase of cases in the past week and their geographical spread alarmed local authorities and prompted the return of complex sets of restrictions on travel as well as on the tourism and catering sectors.

China has said the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge to its hosting of the Winter Olympics in February. Officials suspected the current flare-up was caused by a virus source from overseas.

Richer cities such as Beijing have managed to keep infection numbers low by quickly quarantining and testing potential cases. But small border towns, battling a higher risk of infections imported from overseas while equipped with relatively few resources, have suffered more severe and prolonged disruptions amid China’s zero tolerance for COVID-19.

Prior to COVID-19, Ejina Banner (NASDAQ:), a remote administrative division on China’s border with Mongolia, saw 8 million visitors in 2019 thanks to attractions such as a drought-resistant forest that would turn a golden yellow in October.

But the settlement of its 36,000 residents has been hard hit in the latest outbreak. Ejina has gone into a lockdown since last week, rendering nearly 10,000 tourists unable to leave, a local official said on Tuesday. Nearly half of those visitors are aged over 60.

“[Ejina Banner] has fewer medical workers and virus control staffers,” Fan Mengguang, a health official at Inner Mongolia where Ejina is based, told state television.

“Because Ejina is large but sparsely populated, it’s hard for it to seal its border,” Fan said.

Ruili in the southwestern province of Yunnan, rocked by multiple domestic outbreaks this year, has been served with the toughest curbs ever seen in China.

People who want to leave the city, except for those leaving for a few essential reasons, must be quarantined at centralised facilities for at least seven days before departure, Ruili said on Wednesday.

Ruili is a key transit point for Yunnan, which has fought to monitor its rugged 4,000 km (2,485-mile) border with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam for illegal immigration amid unauthorised crossings by those seeking a haven from the pandemic.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Coronavirus

WHO expects to have more information on Omicron transmission ‘within days’

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WHO expects to have more information on Omicron transmission 'within days'
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: WHO Technical lead head COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Gene

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization expects to have more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus within days, its technical lead on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said in a briefing on Wednesday.

That was faster than the “weeks” the WHO had predicted last week that it would take to assess the data available on the variant after designating it a “variant of concern”, its highest rating.

Whether the variant is more transmissible or evades vaccines are some of the major questions that still need answering.

Vaccine developers have said it will take about two weeks to assess whether their shots are effective against it.

Van Kerkhove said one possible scenario was that the new variant, which was first reported in southern Africa, may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant. She said it was not yet known if Omicron makes people more ill.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the agency believes the existing COVID-19 vaccines will work against the variant.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergency director, reiterated the agency’s opposition to the blanket bans on flights to and from southern Africa that have been imposed by Britain and other countries, saying it would not prevent the variant’s spread:

“The idea you can just put a hermetic seal on some countries is not possible. I can’t see the logic from an epidemiological or public health perspective.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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U.S. FDA evaluating effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron

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U.S. FDA evaluating effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A vial and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words “Omicron SARS-CoV-2” in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food & Drug Administration said on Tuesday it was evaluating the effectiveness of authorized COVID-19 vaccines against the Omicron coronavirus variant and expects to have more information in the next few weeks.

The agency is currently evaluating the vaccines to see if and how well they work against the variant, first detected in South Africa, Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

She said if the review shows a modification to the current vaccines is needed, the agency and companies will work together to develop and test such a modification quickly.

The new variant has sparked worries around the world that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. health regulatory agency maintained that the authorised vaccines remain highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and serious clinical outcomes associated with the infection and urged people to get vaccinated.

The FDA is also evaluating the potential impact of the variant on the currently available diagnostics and therapeutics. It said a preliminary review showed that high volume PCR and antigen tests, widely used in the United States, have low likelihood of being impacted by Omicron.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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Coronavirus

Omicron variant could outcompete Delta, South African disease expert says

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Omicron variant could outcompete Delta, South African disease expert says
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words “Omicron SARS-CoV-2” in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Alexander Winning

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The Omicron coronavirus variant detected in southern Africa could be the most likely candidate to displace the highly contagious Delta variant, the director of South Africa’s communicable disease institute said on Tuesday.

The discovery of Omicron has caused global alarm, with countries limiting travel from southern Africa for fear it could spread quickly even in vaccinated populations and the World Health Organization saying it carries a high risk of infection surges.

“We thought what will outcompete Delta? That has always been the question, in terms of transmissibility at least, … perhaps this particular variant is the variant,” Adrian Puren, acting executive director of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), told Reuters in an interview.

If Omicron proves even more transmissible than the Delta variant, it could lead to a sharp spike in infections that could put pressure on hospitals.

Puren said scientists should know within four weeks to what extent Omicron can evade the immunity generated by vaccines or prior infection, and whether it leads to worse clinical symptoms than other variants.

Anecdotal accounts by doctors who have treated South African COVID-19 patients say Omicron appears to be producing mild symptoms, including a dry cough, fever and night sweats, but experts have cautioned against drawing firm conclusions.

Puren said it was too early to say whether Omicron was displacing Delta in South Africa, since local scientists have only produced 87 sequences of Omicron so far.

But the fact that cases have started to rise rapidly, especially in the most populated Gauteng province, is a sign that some displacement might already be happening.

Delta drove a third wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa that peaked at more than 26,000 cases per day in early July. Omicron is expected to trigger a fourth wave, with daily infections seen topping 10,000 by the end of the week from around 2,270 on Monday.

Anne von Gottberg, a clinical microbiologist at the NICD, said it looked like infections were rising throughout the country.

On Monday, an NICD presentation a flagged a large number of COVID-19 admissions among infants aged under two years as an area of concern. But von Gottberg cautioned against linking that with Omicron just yet.

“It looks like in fact some of those admissions might have started before the emergence of Omicron. We are also seeing that there was an increase in influenza cases just in the last month or so, and so we need to be really careful to look at the other respiratory infections,” she said.

“We are looking at the data very, very carefully, but at the moment I’m not too sure that we can link it definitively to Omicron.”

South Africa has been praised for alerting the global scientific community and WHO so quickly to Omicron — a brave move given the damage that travel restrictions imposed by multiple countries including Britain will do to its important tourism sector.

The country has reported close to 3 million COVID-19 infections during the pandemic and over 89,000 deaths, the most on the African continent.

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