Tests on Travelers from China Offer Snapshot of Covid Bedlam, Connecticut Tells Residents to MaskFrequent Business Traveler

January 8, 2023


The Rippowan River runs through Downtown Stamford.

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,002nd day of the pandemic.

Multiple countries are conducting on-arrival coronavirus testing of arrivals from China after the country began to reopen its borders.  The move came about due to concerns over a lack of transparency by the Chinese government over Covid infection and death figures.

The test results are telling.

One flight to Italy in December had almost 100 passengers with SARS-CoV-2, roughly half the passenger manifest, while another found that one-third of the passengers tested positive.

The end of China’s draconian “zero-Covid” policies came without any guardrails in place, and resulted in overflowing hospitals in the country, medicine shortages, and a noticeably increased death toll.

The strictest restrictions are policies in place in Italy, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, which require on-arrival testing for passengers from China. The United States, meanwhile, requires proof of a negative test before departure.  Other countries are testing wastewater from aircraft on flights originating in China to gain a picture of what unwanted infections are arriving with passengers and luggage.

In other news we cover today, a new single-swab rapid test for Covid, the flu, and RSV is available in Europe but not in the United States, Connecticut tells residents to mask indoors, and Chinese engineers and scientists are dying at an unprecedented pace.

UNITED STATES

The Food and Drug Administration  said on Friday that AstraZeneca’s preventative monoclonal antibody treatment for the coronavirus is likely ineffective against the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant. The agency said this was due to the subvariant’s similarity to other mutations of the virus that are also not neutralized by the treatment.

Connecticut public health officials issued recommendations that residents don face masks in indoor public spaces as coronavirus infection rates continue to climb in the Nutmeg State. The recommendation is based on new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that show “a statewide surge in Covid-19 activity,”according to a statement issued Friday by the state Department of Public Health.

GLOBAL

A relatively new test is available from Shenzhen Microprofit Biotech that simultaneously tests for SARS-CoV-2, two types of influenza, and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.  The test costs €6.50 ($6.93) in the European Union, but it is not available in the United States, lacking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. According to the manufacturer, the test captures 100% of cases that are negative for Covid, flu or RSV –  which means it won’t produce false positives – and picks up on 90% of influenza B cases, 92% of influenza A cases, 93% of coronavirus cases, and 95% of RSV cases.

Hong Kong will reopen its border with mainland China after almost three years on Sunday, when Beijing also makes quarantine-free travel available to the rest of the world. The move is viewed by many in Hong Kong with great anxiety over possible increases in Covid infections and access to fever and pain medication as pharmacy shelves are already bare thanks to residents sending pills to the mainland.

Meanwhile, in China, senior and leading Chinese engineers and scientists are dying at an unprecedented pace following the ending of the government’s “zero-Covid” policies.  More have died in less than a month than typically die in a year, according to a statement of the Chinese Academy of Engineering published on its website.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, January 7.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 668.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.7 million cases, and 6.71 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 639.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.6 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturday at press time is 21,970,069, an increase of 92,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 21,925,374, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 44,695, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 115,075 new coronavirus infections on Saturday for the previous day, compared to 115,834  on Friday, 207,391 on Thursday, 76,128 on Wednesday, and 10,893 on Tuesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 78,496.  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 67,364, a decrease of 4% averaged 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 513, an increase of 15% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 47,889, an increase of 16%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 5,672, an increase of 15% and the test positivity rate is now 16%, a 23% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded just under 103.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.12 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,718.

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 39.4 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 37.5 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 694,823, has recorded 36.5 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 30.3 million cases, South Korea, with 29.5 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.3 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.1 million, and Russia, with just over 21.8 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 268.5 million people in the United States – or 80.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.1%, or 229.3 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 665.1 million. Breaking this down further, 91.8% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.1 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.8% of the same group – or 203.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 17.7% of the same population, or over 45.7 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 69.1% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.18 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.76 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 25.9% 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.

Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)





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