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COVID-19

WHO says COVID likely passed from bats to humans through another animal

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2021)

A joint study between the World Health Organization (WHO) and China on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely”.

According to a draft copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press the findings were largely as expected and left many questions unanswered. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

The report’s release has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China, AP reported. 

But a WHO official said late last week that he expected it would be ready for release “in the next few days.”

According to AP, the report it received appeared to be the near-final version of it but that it was not clear whether the report might still be changed prior to its release. 

AP stated researchers listed different scenarios in order of likelihood of the origins of the virus. 

They concluded that transmission through a second animal was likely to very likely. They also evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely, and said that spread through “cold-chain” food products was possible but not likely.

The closest relative of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in bats, which are known to carry coronaviruses, AP reported. 

The report also stated that highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, but also noted that mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID virus, which suggests they could be carriers.

The report is based largely on a visit by a WHO team of international experts to Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected, from mid-January to mid-February, AP reported.

 

COVID-19

COVID-19 cases close to 41 million in US, hospitals overwhelmed

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(Last Updated On: September 12, 2021)

The cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 40.92 million on Saturday, with the death toll exceeding 659,000 and COVID-19 hospitalizations topping 100,000 due to raging highly contagious Delta variant.

This has pushed health systems in many states to limit, Reuters reported.

The country’s case count stood at 40,920,379 as of Saturday, with the death toll reaching 659,675, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Health systems in the United States, especially those with low vaccination rates, are trying to deal with hiking hospitalizations as the nationwide total topped 100,000 as of September 9, with 26,000 patients being treated in intensive care units, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Hospitals across the U.S. are facing mounting pressure, with the national average of intensive-care unit availability at just 20 percent. Medical resources in many regions are in short supply, and medical staff are overwhelmed.

St Anthony’s Hospital in Florida is one of 15 hospitals in the area that has seen a tenfold increase in hospitalizations since July, and 85 percent of its patients have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the hospital’s president.

Doctors at the hospital also said that unvaccinated infected patients are more likely to suffer more serious conditions and need to be kept alive by a ventilator. The patients usually want to make a phone call with their family members before intubation. Unfortunately, this is often their final goodbye to their families.

An intensive care nurse at the hospital said that, as a health care worker, she thought she could “survive the epidemic without vaccination,” but the raging epidemic has forced her to change her attitude and choose to get vaccinated.

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COVID-19

Australia’s New South Wales records highest COVID-19 daily caseload

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(Last Updated On: September 11, 2021)

Australia’s New South Wales state, the epicentre of the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak, reported 1,599 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections on Saturday, its biggest one-day rise in the pandemic.

New South Wales, in which its largest city of Sydney has been under strict stay-at-home orders for nearly three months, said a further eight people died, Reuters reported.

A four-stage national reopening plan unveiled by the federal government in July aims to relax several tough curbs once the country reaches a 70-80% immunization target from 40% now.

Australia has now recorded nearly 73,000 COVID-19 cases and a death toll of 1,084.

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COVID-19

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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(Last Updated On: September 8, 2021)

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now, Reuters reports.

New Zealand marks downward trend in new COVID-19 cases

New Zealand reported a further fall in locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, as the largely coronavirus-free nation looks to eradicate an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Officials earlier this week said schools, offices and businesses can reopen outside Auckland from Wednesday after near-zero cases in the rest of the country, but there will be a cap on gatherings and masks will remain mandatory in public venues.

Biden to outline plan to curb coronavirus Delta variant

US President Joe Biden on Thursday will present a six-pronged strategy intended to fight the spread of the Delta variant and increase US COVID-19 vaccinations, the White House said on Tuesday.

A White House official familiar with the plan said it would touch on mandates, testing, and schools. The official added the private sector could do more on the issue and that Biden would take on vaccine hesitancy as well.

Vaccinations accelerate in Australia

Three-quarters of people over the age of 16 in Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) have now had at least their first vaccination dose, the state reported on Wednesday, along with the first rise in new infections in three days.

As it prepares to emerge from lockdowns in its two biggest cities, the government is considering the use of vaccination certificates for international travel from October, the Sydney Morning Herald said in a report without citing a source. Australians are banned from leaving the country unless they have exemptions, while returning travellers must undergo a two-week hotel quarantine at their own expense.

US CDC warns against, and eases, travel ratings

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday warned against travel to Sri Lanka, Jamaica and Brunei because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, raising its travel advisory for these countries to “Level 4: Very High”.

The CDC also eased its ratings for the Netherlands, Malta, Guinea-Bissau and United Arab Emirates from “Level 4: Very High” to “Level 3: High,” urging unvaccinated Americans to avoid travel there. It also raised Australia from “Level 1: Low” to “Level 2: Moderate.”

Mask war marks first weeks of school in Florida

Parents in Florida and across the United States have clashed with school and health officials in what has become a politicized tussle over COVID precautions.

Two small districts in Florida that did not require masks have had to shut down because of soaring COVID cases. Staff shortages stemming from illness or quarantine have led to overcrowding on buses and larger class sizes, making social distancing harder, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said.

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