WHO experts insist Covid still a global emergency

  by Robin Millard © Agence France-Presse GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The WHO’s emergency committee on Covid-19 on Wednesday unanimously affirmed that the virus remains a major public health danger and insisted that countries must stop dropping their guard. With many nations relaxing public health and social measures, and drastically reducing testing for the virus, the World Health Organization’s group of experts said the pandemic was far from being at an end. “Now is not […]

20 countries still below 10% Covid jab rate: WHO experts

by Robin MILLARD GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Twenty mostly African countries have still not vaccinated even 10 percent of their population against Covid-19, the World Health Organization’s vaccine advisers lamented Monday. The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) said the speed of the Covid jab rollout had been “unprecedented”. However, 20 countries — down from 34 in January — had still not managed a 10-percent immunisation rate, Kate O’Brien, the WHO’s vaccines chief, […]

Vaccine supply outstrips demand, access inequity remains

  PARIS, France (AFP) — After two years of racing to vaccinate the world against Covid-19, the number of available doses now surpasses demand in many areas. Yet a yawning gap remains in vaccination rates between the richest and poorest countries. On Friday, Gavi, which co-leads the Covax global distribution scheme, is holding a summit calling for more funds to address the issue of inequality in vaccine access. – Huge production – More than 13 […]

Omicron lasts three days less than Delta for boosted: study

  PARIS, France (AFP) — People who are vaccinated and have had a booster shot against Covid-19 recover from symptoms from the Omicron variant more than three days earlier than those with the Delta variant, a study said Friday. The study also found that people with Omicron are significantly less likely to lose their sense of smell, and confirmed previous research that it is less severe. To find out the differences in how Omicron and […]

Viruses that could save millions of lives

  by Irakli METREVELI Agence France Presse TBILISI, Georgia (AFP) — It may seem strange after a pandemic that has killed millions and turned the world upside down, but viruses could save just as many lives. In a petri dish in a laboratory in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, a battle is going on between antibiotic resistant bacteria and “friendly” viruses. This small nation in the Caucasus has pioneered research on a groundbreaking way to tackle […]

Pfizer-BioNTech seek US approval of second Covid booster for 65+

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States (AFP) – Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday they had formally asked the United States drug regulator for emergency approval of a second booster shot of their Covid vaccine for people aged 65 and older. The companies said in a press statement that their request is based off two Israeli studies that show “an additional mRNA booster increases immunogenicity and lowers rates of confirmed infections and severe illness.” Most countries’ case-levels have […]

Hazmat suits and panic buying: pandemic images return to China

SHANGHAI, China (AFP) – A Shanghai pedestrian swarmed by hazmat-clad health officials, police tape wrapped around entire blocks, and panic buying at a Shenzhen shopping centre: China is returning to virus controls many hoped it had long left behind. The country is facing its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the first wave of the pandemic emerged in Wuhan in late 2019. While the daily caseload is comparatively small, around 5,300 were recorded on Tuesday, the Omicron […]

Private jets soar past global pandemic, oil price woes

by Nathalie OLOF-ORS Agence France-Presse GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) – Airlines may find themselves swept up in unprecedented turbulence — with air travel shunned over climate concerns, plagued by pandemic shutdowns and soaring oil prices — but for private jet operators, business is booming. The appeal of private jets has taken off since the start of the pandemic, amid fear of catching Covid-19 and as widespread cancellations and stringent measures have turned flying commercial into a […]

Australia battles spread of Japanese encephalitis

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia said Friday it is buying extra vaccines to fight the potentially deadly, mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus, which has spread down the flood-hit east coast for the first time. Previously confined to the tropical north, Japanese encephalitis has traveled as far south as South Australia since late February — infecting 17 people and leading to two confirmed deaths, according to state health authorities. More extreme rainfall events have brought greater numbers […]

WHO frustration two years on since pandemic declaration

  by Robin MILLARD Agence France Presse GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Friday marks two years to the day since the World Health Organization first described Covid-19 as a pandemic, shaking countries into action as the disease ripped around the planet. The once-in-a-century pandemic has turned the world upside down, claiming more than six million lives and infecting at least 450 million people. But the WHO voiced its frustration at people marking the second anniversary of […]

Covid has taken severe mental health toll: WHO

by Nina LARSON Agence France-Presse GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) – The Covid pandemic has taken a dire toll on mental health, the WHO said Wednesday, indicating that cases of anxiety and depression had swelled by over 25 percent globally. In a fresh scientific brief, the World Health Organization also found that the Covid-19 crisis had in many cases significantly impeded access to mental health services and raised concerns about increases in suicidal behaviour. The brief, which […]

China could eventually ‘co-exist’ with Covid: top scientist

  BEIJING, China (AFP) — China could move away from its zero-Covid strategy “in the near future” and co-exist with the virus, a top Chinese scientist said in a possible sign that the country’s leadership is rethinking its strict approach. The country where the coronavirus was first detected in 2019 is now one of the last places still hewing to a zero-tolerance approach, responding to small outbreaks with snap lockdowns and cutting off most international […]