During an interview on 60 Minutes, President Joe Biden claimed the pandemic is over.
President Joe Biden raised eyebrows over the weekend with a bold declaration on 60 minutes.
“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID, we’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” said President Biden.
That’s an assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak that doesn’t square with the facts.
The WHO’s top official said clearly just days ago.
“We’re not there yet, but the end is in sight,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization.
The president’s own chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said this Monday, “we are not where we need to be if we’re going to be able to quote live with the virus.”
Still it’s the most hopeful the World Health Organization’s leaders have sounded since the start of the virus’ spread in late 2019.
“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus.
Leaders from the Oval Office to state houses celebrated.
But the CDC says the virus is still killing 360 people a day in the U.S. — the lowest we’ve seen since July and far from winter peaks.
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Yet, it’s still higher than the lulls of mid-2021.
Infectious disease experts warn colder weather could again spike the spread, though vaccines will soften the blow.
Meanwhile the economic mayhem from the global shutdown lingers. World leaders are still grappling with how to navigate out of the storm.
It’s a key focus for the UN General Assembly this week.
“We meet at the moment of great peril for our worlds. The ongoing effects of a global pandemic. Lack of access to finance for developing countries to recover. A crisis not seen in a generation,” said António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
As even White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff masked up just Friday to get COVID booster shots.
“This is a new formulation that we want all Americans to get right now over the age of 12,” said Emhoff.
They’re setting an example for millions of Americans being asked to give the fight against COVID a final push across the finish line.
“Let’s make sure we’re playing the game until the very end,” said Gov. Andy Beshear.
“A marathon runner does not stop when the end comes into view. She runs harder with all the energy she has left. So must we,” said Ghebreyesus.
EU authorities could decide “as a temporary measure” to use smaller doses of the vaccine to protect vulnerable people during the ongoing outbreak.
A smaller dose of the monkeypox vaccine appears to still be effective and can be used to stretch the current supply by five times, the European Medicines Agency said Friday, echoing a recommendation made earlier this month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The EU drug regulator said in a statement that injecting people with just one-fifth the regular dose of the smallpox vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic appeared to produce similar levels of antibodies against monkeypox as a full dose.
The approach calls for administering Bavarian Nordic’s vaccine with an injection just under the skin rather than into deeper tissue, a practice that may stimulate a better immune response. People still need to get two doses, about four weeks apart.
The EMA said national authorities could decide “as a temporary measure” to use smaller doses of the vaccine to protect vulnerable people during the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the decision would allow the vaccination of five times as many people with the continent’s current supply.
“This ensures greater access to vaccination for citizens at risk and healthcare workers,” she said in a statement.
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Earlier this month, the U.S. FDA authorized a similar plan to extend the country’s monkeypox vaccine stocks. The technique has previously been used to stretch supplies of vaccines during other outbreaks, including yellow fever and polio.
The unusual recommendations from both regulators acknowledge the extremely limited global supplies of the Jynneos vaccine, originally developed against smallpox. Bavarian Nordic is the only company that makes it and it expects to have about 16 million doses available this year. On Thursday, the U.S. also announced a new agreement with a Michigan manufacturer to help speed production of 5.5 million vaccine vials recently ordered by the government.
The EMA authorized the vaccine in July based on experimental data that suggested it would work; the World Health Organization has estimated the shot is about 85% effective at preventing monkeypox.
Globally, there are more than 40,000 cases of monkeypox, of which about half are in Europe. Earlier this week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there has been a 20% increase in cases reported in the last two weeks and that nearly all infections have been reported in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men.
Tedros said WHO was in talks with vaccine manufacturers and countries to see if any might be willing to share doses. Africa has reported the highest number of suspected monkeypox deaths and although the disease has been endemic in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it has only a small supply of vaccines being used as part of a research study.
About 98% of monkeypox cases beyond Africa have been reported in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men. WHO said there is no sign of sustained transmission beyond men who have sex with men, although a small number of women and children have also been sickened by the disease.
Monkeypox spreads when people have close, physical contact with an infected person’s lesions, their clothing or bedsheets. Most people recover without needing treatment, but the lesions can be extremely painful and more severe cases can result in complications including brain inflammation and death.
In the U.K., which at one point had the biggest outbreak outside Africa, officials said earlier this week they have seen signs the outbreak is slowing down.
The U.N. health agency said there were 5.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week, a decline of 24% from the previous week.
New coronavirus cases reported globally dropped nearly a quarter in the last week while deaths fell 6% but were still higher in parts of Asia, according to a report Thursday on the pandemic by the World Health Organization.
The U.N. health agency said there were 5.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week, a decline of 24% from the previous week. Infections fell everywhere in the world, including by nearly 40% in Africa and Europe and by a third in the Middle East. COVID deaths rose in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia by 31% and 12% respectively, but fell or remained stable everywhere else.
At a press briefing Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said reported coronavirus deaths over the past month have surged 35%, and noted there had been 15,000 deaths in the past week.
“15,000 deaths a week is completely unacceptable, when we have all the tools to prevent infections and save lives,” Tedros said. He said the number of virus sequences shared every week has plummeted 90%, making it extremely difficult for scientists to monitor how COVID-19 might be mutating.
“But none of us is helpless,” Tedros said. “Please get vaccinated if you are not, and if you need a booster, get one.”
On Thursday, WHO’s vaccine advisory group recommended for the first time that people most vulnerable to COVID-19, including older people, those with underlying health conditions and health workers, get a second booster shot. Numerous other health agencies and countries made the same recommendation months ago.
The expert group also said it had evaluated data from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for younger people and said children and teenagers were in the lowest priority group for vaccination, since they are far less likely to get severe disease.
Joachim Hombach, who sits on WHO’s vaccine expert group, said it was also uncertain whether the experts would endorse widespread boosters for the general population or new combination vaccines that target the Omicron variant.
“We need to see what the data will tell us and we need to see actually (what) will be the advantage of these vaccines that comprise an (Omicron) strain,” he said.
Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, the expert group’s chair, said that unless vaccines were proven to stop transmission, their widespread use would be “a waste of the vaccine and a waste of time.”
Earlier this week, British authorities authorized an updated version of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that targets Omicron and the U.K. government announced it would be offered to people over 50 beginning next month.
New York City is the current epicenter of the monkeypox outbreak in the U.S., with 778 cases.
The World Health Organization declared monkeypox an international emergency.
This is the first time in history a director-general has declared an emergency without a clear recommendation from the emergency committee of the W.H.O.
Here in the U.S., health officials have been working on a strategic deployment of vaccines.
As cases climb globally, experts fear the window for containment is shrinking.
The rare disease gained a foothold in Europe and North America. Now, W.H.O. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the disease is now appearing in regions where it hasn’t before.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little,” said Dr. Tedros.
Dr. Tedros made the decision Saturday, saying he acted as “a tiebreaker,” despite a lack of consensus among experts on the agency’s emergency committee.
The W.H.O. reports that monkeypox has now spread to more than 70 countries. In the U.S., according to the latest CDC data, there are 2,891 confirmed cases of monkeypox. Currently, New York, California, Florida, Illinois, and Georgia are among the states reporting the highest number of cases.
“The good news about monkeypox is, if there is any at all, is that it is a familiar threat. We have tests and we have vaccines,” said California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
This week in San Francisco protestors expressed frustration with the state’s slow response to handling the disease and demanded additional vaccines.
New York City is the current epicenter of the monkeypox outbreak in the U.S., with 778 cases. Health officials there say 17,000 monkeypox vaccine appointments were booked within 30 minutes Friday evening. As they work to meet the demand, state health officials say there may not be enough vials to accommodate everyone who is eligible for a shot.
“I want you to know that we are doing everything we can to get the vaccine to residents who have the highest likelihood of exposure and where we have seen monkeypox is present,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, health commissioner of the New York State Department of Health.
According to a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, 95% of monkeypox cases have been transmitted through sexual activity; the cases are associated with gay and bisexual men, which Dr. Tedros says they are a group that remains most at-risk for contracting and spreading the disease.
“For the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” said Dr. Tedros.
Despite this, Dr. Tedros says the disease could spill over into other communities. Symptoms to look out for: monkeypox rashes, swollen lymph nodes, a headache, fatigue, and a sore throat. Experts say the good news is that the disease can be stopped if all countries work to deliver information and vaccines to affected communities.
“With the tools we have right now, we can stop transmission and bring this outbreak under control,” said Dr. Tedros.
A global emergency doesn’t necessarily mean a disease is particularly deadly or transmissible.
Similar declarations were made for the Zika virus in 2016 in Latin America and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.
The W.H.O. said earlier this month, COVID-19 remains a global emergency, nearly 2-and-a-half years after it was first declared.
The declaration could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.
The chief of the World Health Organization said the expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that now qualifies as a global emergency, a declaration Saturday that could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among experts serving on the U.N. health agency’s emergency committee. It was the first time the chief of the U.N. health agency has taken such an action.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” Tedros said.
“I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members” of the committee, he added.
A global emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal. WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the director-general made the decision to put monkeypox in that category to endure the gobal community takes the current outbreaks seriously.
Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
Declaring a global emergency means the monkeypox outbreak is an “extraordinary event” that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response. WHO previously declared emergencies for public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016 and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.
The emergency declaration mostly serves as a plea to draw more global resources and attention to an outbreak. Past announcements had mixed impact, given that the U.N. health agency is largely powerless in getting countries to act.
Last month, WHO’s expert committee said the worldwide monkeypox outbreak did not yet amount to an international emergency, but the panel convened this week to reevaluate the situation.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since about May. To date, monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa, where a more dangerous version of the virus is spreading, mainly in Nigeria and Congo.
In Africa, monkeypox mainly spreads to people from infected wild animals like rodents, in limited outbreaks that typically have not crossed borders. In Europe, North America and elsewhere, however, monkeypox is spreading among people with no links to animals or recent travel to Africa.
WHO’s top monkeypox expert, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, said this week that 99% of all the monkeypox cases beyond Africa were in men and that of those, 98% involved men who have sex with men. Experts suspect the monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America were spread via sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain.
“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern for the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” Tedros said. “That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.”
Emergencies chief Ryan, explained what preceded the director-general’s decision.:
“(Tedros) found that the committee did not reach a consensus, despite having a very open, very useful, very considered debate on the issues, and that since he’s not going against the committee, what he’s recognizing is that there are deep complexities in this issue,” Ryan said. “There are uncertainties on all sides. And he’s reflecting that uncertainty and his determination of the event” to be a global emergency.
Before Saturday’s announcement, Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University, said it was surprising WHO hadn’t already declared monkeypox a global emergency, explaining that the conditions were arguably met weeks ago.
Some experts had questioned whether such a declaration would help, arguing the disease isn’t severe enough to warrant the attention and that rich countries battling monkeypox already have the funds to do so; most people recover without needing medical attention, although the lesions may be painful.
“I think it would be better to be proactive and overreact to the problem instead of waiting to react when it’s too late,” Head said. He added that WHO’s emergency declaration could help donors like the World Bank make funds available to stop the outbreaks both in the West and in Africa, where animals are the likely natural reservoir of monkeypox.
In the U.S., some experts have speculated whether monkeypox might be on the verge of becoming an entrenched sexually transmitted disease in the country, like gonorrhea, herpes and HIV.
“The bottom line is we’ve seen a shift in the epidemiology of monkeypox where there’s now widespread, unexpected transmission,” said Dr. Albert Ko, a professor of public health and epidemiology at Yale University. “There are some genetic mutations in the virus that suggest why that may be happening, but we do need a globally-coordinated response to get it under control,” he said.
Ko called for testing to be immediately scaled up rapidly, saying that similar to the early days of COVID-19, that there were significant gaps in surveillance.
“The cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The window has probably closed for us to quickly stop the outbreaks in Europe and the U.S., but it’s not too late to stop monkeypox from causing huge damage to poorer countries without the resources to handle it.”
In the U.S., some experts have speculated that monkeypox might become entrenched there as the newest sexually transmitted disease, with officials estimating that 1.5 million men are at high risk of being infected.
Dr. Placide Mbala, a virologist who directs the global health department at Congo’s Institute of National Biomedical Research, said he hoped any global efforts to stop monkeypox would be equitable. Although countries including Britain, Canada, Germany and the U.S. have ordered millions of vaccine doses, none have gone to Africa.
“The solution needs to be global,” Mbala said, adding that any vaccines sent to Africa would be used to target those at highest risk, like hunters in rural areas.
“Vaccination in the West might help stop the outbreak there, but there will still be cases in Africa,” he said. “Unless the problem is solved here, the risk to the rest of the world will remain.”
As the rest of the world learns to live with Covid-19, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, wants his country to keep striving to live without it — no matter the cost.
China won a battle against its first outbreak in Wuhan, Mr. Xi said last week, and “we will certainly be able to win the battle to defend Shanghai,” he added, referring to the epicenter of the current outbreak in China.
summarized it as “zero movement, zero G.D.P.” Multinational companies have grown wary of further investments in the country.
For more than two years, China kept its Covid numbers enviably low by doggedly reacting to signs of an outbreak with testing and snap lockdowns. The success allowed the Communist Party to boast that it had prioritized life over death in the pandemic, unlike Western democracies where deaths from the virus soared.
More transmissible variants like Omicron threaten to dent that success, posing a dilemma for Mr. Xi and the Chinese Communist Party. Harsher lockdowns have been imposed to keep infections from spreading, stifling economic activity and threatening millions of jobs. Chinese citizens have grown restless, pushing back against being forced to stay home or to move into grim, government-run isolation facilities.
politically important year for Mr. Xi, China’s censors have moved quickly to muffle calls for a change in course on Covid-19. The head of the World Health Organization, whose recommendations China once held up as a model, was silenced this week when he called on the country to rethink its strategy.
Photographs and references to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., were promptly scrubbed from the Chinese internet after the statement. The foreign ministry responded by calling Mr. Tedros’s remarks “irresponsible,” and accusing the W.H.O. of not having a “proper understanding of the facts.”
China’s state-controlled media has also glossed over the draconian measures officials have deployed to deal with outbreaks. This week, as some authorities in Shanghai erected new fences around quarantine zones, boarded up more homes and asked residents not to leave their apartments, state media painted a picture of a city slowly returning to normal.
One article described the “hustle and bustle of city life” returning, while another focused on statistics for how many stores had reopened.
has not happened. Several Chinese companies are in the testing phase of a homegrown mRNA option, and China also recently approved for emergency use a Covid-19 antiviral pill made by Pfizer called Paxlovid.
Administering three vaccine shots, using antiviral therapies and offering more effective vaccines could help China find a path out of zero Covid, Mr. Ajelli said.
disappointing winter wheat harvest in June could drive food prices — already high because of the war in Ukraine and bad weather in Asia and the United States — further up, compounding hunger in the world’s poorest countries.
A pause on wealth redistribution. For much of last year, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, waged a fierce campaign to narrow social inequalities and usher in a new era of “common prosperity.” Now, as the economic outlook is increasingly clouded, the Communist Party is putting its campaign on the back burner.
By one estimate, nearly 400 million people in 45 cities have been under some form of lockdown in China in the past month, accounting for $7.2 trillion in annual gross domestic product. Economists are concerned that the lockdowns will have a major impact on growth; one economist has warned that if lockdown measures remain in place for another month, China could enter into a recession.
European and American multinational companies have said they are discussing ways to shift some of their operations out of China. Big companies that increasingly depend on China’s consumer market for growth are also sounding the alarm. Apple said it could see a $4 billion to $8 billion hit to its sales because of the lockdowns.
struggle to find and keep jobs during lockdowns.
Even as daily virus cases in Shanghai are steadily dropping, authorities have tightened measures in recent days following Mr. Xi’s call last week to double down. Officials also began to force entire residential buildings into government isolation if just one resident tested positive.
The new measures are harsher than those early on in the pandemic and have been met with pockets of unrest, previously rare in China where citizens have mostly supported the country’s pandemic policies.
In one video widely circulated online before it was taken down by censors, an exasperated woman shouts as officials in white hazmat suits smash her door down to take her away to an isolation facility. She protests and asks them to give her evidence that she has tested positive. Eventually she takes her phone to call the police.
“If you called the police,” one of the men replies, “I’d still be the one coming.”
Isabelle Qian contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.
NAIROBI, Kenya — As unrecorded numbers of Tanzanians succumbed to the coronavirus, the country’s president consistently downplayed the pandemic, dismissing protective measures, scoffing at vaccines and saying God had helped to eliminate the virus.
Now, President John Magufuli’s unusually lengthy absence from public view is fueling speculation that he himself is critically ill with Covid-19 and is being treated outside the country.
The rumors started swirling this week after Tanzania’s leading opposition figure, Tundu Lissu, said Mr. Magufuli was infected with the virus and was being treated in a hospital in neighboring Kenya. In a text message, Mr. Lissu said he had it “from fairly authoritative sources” that the president was flown to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, on Monday night and checked into Nairobi Hospital, one of the largest private facilities in that country.
On Tuesday, Mr. Lissu demanded that authorities disclose the whereabouts of the president, who has not appeared in public for almost two weeks. On Wednesday, he said that Mr. Magufuli was transferred to a hospital in India to “avoid social media embarrassment” in case “the worst happened” in Kenya.
did not attend a virtual summit for the leaders of the East African regional bloc on Feb. 27 and was represented by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
“The most powerful man in Tanzania is now being sneaked about like an outlaw,” Mr. Lissu said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
“His COVID denialism in tatters, his prayer-over-science folly has turned into a deadly boomerang,” he said in another post on Thursday.
Mr. Lissu’s commentscame after the Tanzanian human rights organization Fichua Tanzania said Mr. Magufuli had left the country to receive treatment in Kenya.
As speculation concerning his whereabouts and illness remained rife on social media, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper also reported that an “African leader” had been admitted to Nairobi Hospital and cited diplomatic sources who said the leader was “on a ventilator.”
threatened to punish those circulating conjectures about his health.
“The head of the state is not a television anchor who had a program but didn’t show up,” Mwigulu Nchemba, minister for legal and constitutional affairs, said in a Twitter post. “The head of state is not the leader of jogging clubs who should be in the neighborhood every day.”
Minister of Information Innocent Bashungwa warned the public and the media that using “rumors” as official information violated the country’s media laws.
Fromthe beginning of the pandemic a year ago, Mr. Magufuli, 61, railed against masks and social distancing measures, advocated unproven remedies as cures and said the country had “absolutely finished” the virus through prayer. Known popularly as “The Bulldozer,” Mr. Magufuli also questioned the efficacy of vaccines, arguing that if those produced by “the white man” were effective, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria would have been eliminated.
Under Mr. Magufuli’s leadership, which began with his election in 2015, Tanzania, once a model of stability in the region, has slid toward autocracy, with the authorities cracking down on the press, opposition figures and rights groups. Mr. Magufuli won a second five-year term last October, in an election marred by accusations of widespread fraud and irregularities.
Mr. Lissu, who was the main opposition candidate against Mr. Magufuli, left the country for exile in Belgium, where he remains.
Since last April, Tanzania has not shared data on the coronavirus with the World Health Organization and has reported only 509 cases and 21 deaths from Covid-19. This lack of transparency has been widely condemned, including by the director general of the W.H.O., Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
warned of a “significant increase” in Covid-19 cases. The Roman Catholic Church has also called on the government to admit the truth of the virus and has urged its congregants to avoid large gatherings.
Tanzanian leaders like Seif Sharif Hamad, the first vice president of Tanzania’s semiautonomous island of Zanzibar, have died after contracting the coronavirus. Soon after news spread that Mr. Hamad had succumbed to the virus last month, the minister of finance, Philip Mpango, appeared at a news conference in Tanzania’s capital, Dodoma, to deny rumors that he too had died. Mr. Mpango, though, was not particularly reassuring when, flanked by unmasked doctors, he began wheezing heavily and coughing fitfully.
Facing pressure, Mr. Magufuli finally changed course in late February and asked people to wear masks and heed the advice of experts.
But for Mr. Lissu, it was too little too late.
“It’s a sad comment on his stewardship of our country that it’s come to this,” Mr. Lissu said in a post on Twitter about Mr. Magufuli’s infection, which he said is evidence “that prayers, steam inhalations and other unproven herbal concoctions he’s championed are no protection against coronavirus!”