North Korea in Lockdown, Vaccines Found Safe for School-Age ChildrenFrequent Business Traveler

January 26, 2023

New data shows that mRNA vaccines are safe for school-age children

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,020th day of the pandemic.

If one wishes to understand the magnitude of the death toll in China following the unparalleled surge in SARS-CoV-2 infections after China’s abrupt end to its draconian “zero-Covid” policies and restrictions, one need only look as far as the rural Shanxi province, where coffin makers are performing in front of a sold-out audience.

Indeed, coffins are selling out faster than they can be made, thanks to the considerable death toll there and in other parts of China.

This is just one of the sad-but-true anecdotes that can be told after China dropped virtually all pandemic restrictions and quarantine requirements without any guardrails in place.

The number of rising deaths across the globe, many concentrated in China, has made the director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “very concerned” ahead of a meeting of the organization at which it could either end – or extend – the global public health emergency.

“While clearly we’re in better shape than we were three years ago when the pandemic hit, the global collective response is once again under strain,” he said on Tuesday at a news conference.

In other news we cover today, a city in China caused chaos by mistakenly issuing a mass-testing notice, North Korea’s capital is in lockdown, and new research found that mRNA vaccines are safe for school-age children.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is attempting to iron out the “logistical and legal” challenges of testing wastewater from airplanes for coronavirus variants, following its announcement of plans to do so last week. Some cities have been monitoring their wastewater for the presence of the novel coronavirus as well as for other diseases including poliomyelitis but testing passenger aircraft wastewater is uncharted seas.

Meanwhile, new data shows that the two doses of the current mRNA coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective for school-age children.   Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center analyzed rates of coronavirus infection, symptom severity, and vaccine side effects among 10,935,541 vaccinated children in the age range 5 to 11 years compared to 2,635,251 non-vaccinated children.

They found that children who had been vaccinated had lower rates of infection plus they experienced less severe symptoms if they become infected. Severe reactions to the shot were rare, and any local injection irritation disappeared after a few days.

Finally, the White House held a reception for new members of Congress and required individuals attending this event to present a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours prior to the visit and an attestation of vaccination. Those not meeting these requirements were subject to mandatory masking and social distancing.


Officials in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, ordered a five-day lockdown amidst rising cases of an unspecified “respiratory illness, according to a report by Seoul-based NK News, citing a North Korean government report.

China’s “zero-Covid” policies, which required costly precautions such as regular mass testing as well as quarantine facilities and high staff costs, have left local governments across the country short on cash and cannot in some cases afford to maintain adequate supplies of natural gas used by homes for heating and in government buildings. China obtains most of its natural gas from Russia and suffers a lack of adequate heat as Asia experiences extreme cold and wintry weather. China’s coldest city, Mohe, widely known as China’s North Pole, had its coldest day on record, meteorologists said, after temperatures plunged to -63.4° F (-53°C).

To add insult to injury, Dongxiang, a district in Jiangxi in southeast China was forced to retract a mass-testing notice and issue an apology after a notice it sent out for mass PCR testing sparked alarm that the country would revert to its recently-ended “zero-Covid” policies.  On Tuesday, Dongxiang issued an official notice ordering all 450,000 residents to undergo mass PCR testing over the following two days.   The notice was subject to mass ridicule.  As one person said on social media, “We are all positive so what is there to test?”

Finally, Prince Albert of Monaco tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, although a statement issued by the palace said he remains asymptomatic and will remain under the current health rules in force in the principality.  This marks the third time the prince has contracted the virus. On Sunday, he brought 8-year-old twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella to the 45th International Circus Festival in Monte Carlo.


Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, January 25.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 673.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million cases, and 6.75 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 645.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.3 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 Wednesday at press time is 21,219,612, a decrease of 68,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 21,175,513, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 44,099, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 31,773 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 32,412 on Tuesday, 4,953 on Monday, 2,473 on Sunday, 82,833 on Saturday, 67,629 on Friday, and 144,535 on Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 52,505.  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 45,656, a figure down 30% over the past 14 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 542, a decrease of 7% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 35,647, a decrease of 25%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 4,557, a decrease of 20% and the test positivity rate is now 12%, a 19% decrease.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 103.9 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.14 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,737.

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 reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, 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 39.5 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 37.7 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 696,553, has recorded just under 36.8 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 32.3 million cases, South Korea, with 30 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.4 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.3 million, and Russia, with 21.9 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 268.8 million people in the United States – or 81% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.1%, or 229.5 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 667.8 million. Breaking this down further, 91.9% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.3 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.9% of the same group – or 203.6 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 18.5% of the same population, or over 47.9 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine.

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 69.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.23 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.1 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 26% 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.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.


(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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