Tag Archives: Covid-19

Opinion: Wait until summer, in the midst of a German lockdown. | Opinion | DW | Instant News

The color of the blazer may change, but the message remains the same: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of Germany’s 16 states announced, once again, that the country must remain locked. The fight against the coronavirus pandemic has seen the lockdown extended for the third time in three months. What is next? It all depends on the level of infection.

Does anyone really believe that everything will looks much better on February 14th, that infection rates will be low enough to open schools, shops and restaurants? Certainly not. In March? Probably not. Easter? Maybe, but with conditions. By early April, it likely won’t be warm enough to bring life to the outside – not to mention that not enough people will be vaccinated by then.

Avoid new variants

As we all know, expanded immunity is the only way to deal with the virus. If and when we achieve it also depends on how quickly and substantially it changes. How long will the vaccine be effective against the mutation? Europe has bought too few bottles to immediately vaccinate millions – a fatal mistake in a race against time.

Sabine Kinkartz of DW

The urgency is even stronger with the new – and more contagious – variant of COVID-19 originating in the UK, which is now becoming is on the rise in Europe. With such high stakes, virologists, ahead of a meeting of state prime ministers, urged leaders to impose a total lockdown, dubbed a “mega-lockdown.”

But the country’s leaders have decided not to follow their advice.

Politics during a pandemic

The new restrictions rely more on mandatory masks, social distancing and working from home – measures that only reinforce what already is. But is that enough? The infection and death rates have decreased slightly, but are far from acceptable.

Policy makers have a dilemma. On the one hand, the threat is still great, maybe even bigger than before considering the new variant. But to be able to enforce tough measures in a free liberal democracy, the support of citizens is absolutely necessary – and it will collapse.

Germany is no longer the country where the pandemic started. The first wave of COVID-19 infections was both surprising and motivating. There are concerted efforts to contain the outbreak. The fear of the virus keeps everyone at home, at least those who can afford it. Most of the economy was closed. The city center is deserted, the streets are so empty that individual lanes are declared bike lanes, and you can safely walk the highways.

But during the second wave, the city streets were bustling. Certain sectors of the economy are up and running, if not at full speed, and that is what political leadership wants. Even Germany unable to take the second economic hit due to the harsh lockdown, which put further pressure on the national budget.

Nearly a year since the start of the pandemic, people have learned to cope with new routines and live in constant emergencies. We are more numb to danger, but, at the same time, pandemic exhaustion and depression. And now, many will have to muster strength and resilience over the coming weeks, either in the loneliness of one household or in the chaos of a family amid school closings.

A homemade depiction of the coronavirus hanging on a street in Schwerin

The corona virus continues to swell in Germany

Resistance is growing

Many policy mistakes have been made – not least in communicating regulations. More and more people are questioning the steps that are sometimes contradictory and difficult to understand. Why do hairdressers have to stay closed, but at the same time people are allowed to jostle through the checkout lines at supermarkets? Why are people not allowed to go to restaurants, but can get onto crowded buses and trains? Why are the most vulnerable, the elderly and the sick, better protected? What about high-quality medical masks and mandatory home testing? This can be done faster.

Resentment also grows in the business community. A locked industry is in dire financial straits; many of them may have to file bankruptcy immediately. Arts and culture, and the entire event industry, are practically gone. Calls for help were ignored – and bitter awareness was growing that the government was not helping the gastronomic and cultural industries as fast. While Lufthansa airline has billions of euros in guarantees, many small business owners are still waiting for the financial support promised in November.

The hardest months

Even in times of prosperity, politicians can no longer score points. Calls for easing lockdown measures have become more intense. More work from home for employees? Don’t be too fast, because it can become a habit after a pandemic. Even if employers now have to offer staff the opportunity to work from home, hard-hearted employers will find ways to get around this, even amid rising infection rates.

Back in December, we were told the next few months would be the toughest. That realization now had a profound impact.

People need goals. Positive goals. The things they can look forward to. It was cold and wet and gray outside. So what if they are cheerful and sociable inside, one should be able to imagine their next vacation. None of that is on the horizon at the moment. Otherwise. Politicians rely on the principle of hope – and on everyone who grins and holds him a little longer.

This article was translated from German.


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Germany: New COVID variant discovered in Bavaria | News | DW | Instant News

A a new variant of the corona virus was detected in 35 patients at a hospital in southern Germany on Monday.

It is not yet known how contagious, or how lethal, the new variant is, the clinic’s managing director of Garmisch-Partenkirchen confirmed. “The fact that it’s a new variant doesn’t mean it’s more contagious.” Frank Niederbühl said.

And deputy medical director, Clemens Stockklausner, said there was no need to panic just yet. “We will have to wait for the complete sequence. We cannot say at all at this point whether this (mutation) has clinical relevance,” he told reporters.

The sample has been sent to Berlin Charite Hospital for further examination.

The new mutation differs from the variants in South Africa and England

Stockklausner stressed that the new mutations were different from those found in UKand south Africa. Both of these variants are more contagious, although neither led to the higher mortality rate.

Perhaps more significantly, the new variant is not reduce the impact of the vaccines currently on offer, according to medical experts.

Infection has decreased but stricter measures are likely to occur

The rate of new infections has fallen in recent days in Germany and the occupancy of intensive care units by coronavirus patients has fallen by 10-15%, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn.

Germany’s top health official also said intensive testing of cross-border commuters should be introduced to help prevent new variants from entering the country.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 7,141 on Monday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. That’s 5,000 fewer cases than last Monday, but the daily figures from Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate are incomplete, the RKI insists.

16 German state Prime Ministers will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to discuss possible stricter measures aims to prevent the spread of the corona virus. Deputy Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for an extension, as well as tightening, of the lockdown measures that expire at the end of the month.

jsi / rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP)


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New Zealand expects a decline in dairy revenue from lower shipments of butter, cheese and powdered milk | Instant News

For the world’s largest exporter of dairy products, export revenue for dairy products is expected to fall from NZ $ 20 billion (US $ 14.5 billion) in 2019/20, to NZ $ 19 billion (US $ 13.7) for the year ending June 2021.

It is expected to rise and reach NZ $ 20 billion by 2021/22, according to a prospect report published by the Ministry of Primary Industries in December 2020.

New Zealand Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said his country expects weaker demand for some of its goods, as well as pressure on prices.

The main milk commodity person

Whole milk, butter, cream and cheese are the main dairy commodities in New Zealand.

Exports of powdered milk are expected to fall from NZ $ 7.5 to 7 billion (US $ 5.4 to 5 billion) in 2020/21, butter and cream from NZ $ 3.3 to 2.7 billion (US $ 2.3 billion) to 1.9 billion), skim milk from NZ $ 1.8 to 1.7 billion (US $ 1.3 to 1.2 billion), and cheese from NZ $ 2 to NZ $ 1.9 billion (US $ 1.4 to 1.3 billion).

However, export revenues for casein and protein, infant formula, liquid milk and cream, very high temperature milk, yogurt and ice cream are expected to increase.

Exports of casein and protein products are expected to grow from NZ $ 1.9 to NZ $ 2.1 billion (US $ 1.4 to 1.5 billion), infant formula from NZ $ 1.8 to NZ $ 1.9 billion ( US $ 1.3 to 1.4 billion), and others (liquid milk, UHT milk), yogurt, ice cream) will increase revenue from NZ $ 1.4 to NZ $ 1.7 billion (US $ 1 to 1, 2 billion).

Casein and protein ingredients are commonly used as base materials for developing dairy and non-dairy products such as cheese, cream, ice cream, and protein supplements.

Main market person

The decline in income is likely due to weaker global dairy prices, as the market continues to face the impact of the COVID-19 crisis by fluctuations in exchange rates and commodity prices.


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Australian Coronavirus news: Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said all Australian Open players were briefed on COVID-19 rules | Instant News

Israel trades Pfizer doses for medical data in vaccine strikes


After running fast in the race to inoculate its population against the coronavirus, Israel has struck a deal with Pfizer, pledging to share massive medical data with the international drug giant in exchange for a continued flow of hard-to-come vaccines.

Proponents say the deal could allow Israel to become the first country to vaccinate a large part of its population, while providing valuable research that could help the rest of the world.

But critics say the deal raises major ethical concerns, including a possible breach of privacy and a deepening of the global divide that would allow richer countries to stockpile vaccines as poorer populations. including Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, have to wait longer to be inoculated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month that he reached an agreement with the chief executive of Pfizer to speed up delivery of vaccines to Israel.

“Israel will become a global model country,” he said. “Israel will share with Pfizer and with the rest of the world statistics that will help develop a strategy to defeat the coronavirus.”

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told The Associated Press that the Government would submit data to “see how it would affect, first of all, the rate of disease in Israel, the possibilities for opening up the economy, various aspects of social life, and whether there was any effect from vaccination.”

The Pfizer vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, has received emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and European Union regulatory agencies and is believed to provide up to 95 percent protection against COVID-19.

But much remains unknown, including its long-term protection and whether it can prevent transmission of the virus.

Israel, home to an estimated 9.3 million people, is considered an ideal place to study these questions. Universal healthcare should be provided by four publicly funded HMOs with rigorous digital medical records. This centralized system has helped Israel administer more than 2 million doses of the vaccine in less than a month.

Israel has also purchased doses of Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

(with AP)


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The COVID-19 outbreak on New Zealand’s 18-hour flight shows that weak vigilance, proximity remains a major transmission risk- Technology News, First Post | Instant News

Millions of airline passengers traveling during holidays experience firsthand the disturbing uncertainty that comes with flying during a pandemic. Anxious look. Awkward spring distance. Gratuitous mask etiquette, and no regular service. In an effort to convince, airlines have updated and adjusted their requirements for travelers, with uneven results. Some airlines work to maintain social distancing, both at the gate and on board; others are less alert. The wearing of masks depends on passenger compliance, and is unpredictable; or, increasingly, flight capacity, which can range from 20% to nearly full.

Given the variables, infectious disease specialists have a hard time determining the risk of flying. But a study published last week provides some clarity. After an 18-hour flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, landing in Auckland, New Zealand, in September, local health authorities found evidence of an outbreak most likely during the trip. Using seat maps and genetic analysis, the new study determined that one passenger started a chain of infection that spreads to four other people en route.

Previous research on outbreaks that appear to occur during flight has focused on flights that occur in the spring, when few travelers wear masks, planes approach capacity and the value of precautions is not widely understood. The new report, about a largely empty flight in the fall, details what could happen even as airlines and passengers are aware and more careful about the risks.

The findings provide a clear warning for airlines and passengers, experts say.

“The key message here is that you have to have multiple layers of prevention – requiring pre-board testing, in-flight social distancing, and masks,” said Dr. Abraar Karan, an internal medicine doctor at Women’s Hospital and Brigham and Harvard Medical School who was not part of the study team. “All of those things went wrong in various ways on this flight, and if they had just tested it right this would not have happened.”

Medical staff check passengers arriving from Iran at the airport in Najaf, Iraq. AP

New infections were detected after the plane landed in New Zealand; countries require incoming travelers to quarantine for 14 days before entering the community. The analysis, led by researchers at New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, found that 7 of the 86 passengers on the plane tested positive during their quarantine and that at least four were newly infected during the flight. The Boeing 777-300ER, with a capacity of nearly 400 passengers, is only a quarter full.

The seven passengers came from five countries, and they sat in four rows with each other during the 18-hour flight. Two people admitted that they do not wear masks, and airlines do not require the use of masks in the lobby before boarding. Nor did it require pre-flight testing, although five of the seven passengers who later tested positive had taken the test, and received negative results, in the days before boarding.

The versions of the coronavirus that the seven people carried were nearly genetically identical – strongly suggesting that one of them started the outbreak. The person, called the Passenger A report, turned out to be negative four or five days before boarding, the researchers found.

“Four or five days is a long time,” said Karan. “Ideally, you should ask for the results of a rapid test that is done several hours before the flight.”

Even strict “COVID-free” flights, international bookings that require a negative result to board, give people a day or two before departure to get tested.

The findings are uncertain, the authors caution, led by Dr Tara Swadi, adviser to the New Zealand Ministry of Health. But the results “underline the value of considering all international passengers arriving in New Zealand as potentially infected, even if pre-departure testing was carried out, distance and social distancing were followed, and personal protective equipment used in flight,” the researchers concluded.

Previous studies of infection risk during air travel did not clearly quantify risk, and on-board air filtration systems were thought to reduce the risk of infection among passengers even when flights included one or more infected people. But at least two recent reports strongly suggest that an inflight outbreak is a risk: one from Boston to Hong Kong in March; Another flight from London to Hanoi, Vietnam, also in March.

On the Hong Kong flight, analysis showed that two passengers boarding in Boston infected two flight attendants. On the flight over Hanoi, researchers found that 12 out of 16 people who later tested positive were in business class, and proximity to the infectious person strongly predicted the risk of infection.

Airline policies vary widely, depending on the flight and carrier. During the first months of the pandemic, most US airlines had a policy of blocking seats, or allowing passengers to reschedule if flights were nearly 70% full. But ahead of the holidays, those policies were largely scrapped, said Scott Mayerowitz, executive editor at The Points Guy, a website covering the industry.

All operators have a mask policy, for passengers and crew – although passengers are not always compliant.

“Even before the pandemic, passengers weren’t always the best at following the rules on the plane,” said Mayerowitz. “Something about air travel brings up bad things in people, whether it’s fighting over reclining seats, or overhead bin space, or wearing masks properly.”

Temperature checks are rare and less reliable as an indicator of transmission. And a Corona virus test is not required to board a plane, at least on domestic flights. Several international flights have been “tested for COVID”: To fly from New York to Rome in Alitalia, for example, passengers must receive a negative test result within 48 hours of boarding. They were tested again when they arrived in Rome.

Karan says that, unless all precautions are taken, there will be some risk of infection on almost all flights.

“Shocking and not surprising, on an 18 hour flight, an outbreak would occur,” said Karan. “It is likely more than the two of them that took off their masks at some point,” and any mistakes like that increase the chances of spreading.

Benedict Carey. c. 2021 The New York Times Company


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