China’s COVID surge threatens villages as Lunar New Year approaches
Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 accounts for 27.6% of COVID cases in the US: CDC
The Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, is estimated to account for 27.6% of COVID-19 cases in the United States for the week ending Jan. 7, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed on Friday. The subvariant accounted for 18.3% of cases in the week ended Dec. 31.
Mumbai sees nine COVID-19 cases, no death; active tally now 29
Mumbai on Friday reported nine COVID-19 cases, which took the tally here to 11,55,151, while the death toll stood unchanged at 19,746, a civic official said. The addition to the tally is a slight rise from the seven cases reported a day earlier, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official said. The recovery count increased by five to touch 11,35,376, leaving the metropolis with 29 active cases, he added. As per BMC data, the recovery rate was 98.3 per cent, while the caseload doubling time was 2,18,342 days. So far, 1,86,49,078 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the city, including 2,612 in the last 24 hours. The overall growth rate of COVID-1 cases between December 30 to January 5 is 0.0003 per cent, as per civic data.
China is seeking to minimise the possibility of a major new COVID-19 outbreak during this month’s Lunar New Year travel rush following the end of most pandemic containment measures. The Transportation Ministry on Friday called on travelers to reduce trips and gatherings, particularly if they involve elderly people, pregnant women, small children and those with underlying conditions.
Puducherry witnesses dip in cases
The Union Territory of Puducherry registered five new COVID-19 cases on Friday, according to a senior official of Department of Health. As many as 1,050 samples were tested during the last 24 hours and of them five new cases surfaced, said Director of Health G Sriramulu in a release. The Union Territory on Thursday reported 10 fresh coronavirus cases. All the five cases identified today were from Puducherry region. No new fatality was reported from any of the four regions of the Union Territory during the last 24 hours and the death toll remained at 1,975, the official said.
Govt yet to issue quality certificate to 160 Chinese companies for selling toys in India due to the COVID-19
The government on Friday said it has not yet issued a mandatory quality certificate to around 160 Chinese companies for selling toys in India, and the delay is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From January 2021, India has made it mandatory to get the quality certification mark of ‘ISI’ from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for the sale of toys in the country. “Around 160 Chinese toy companies have applied for the BIS quality certification in the last two years. We have not yet issued to them in view of the COVID-19 pandemic,” BIS Director General Pramod Kumar Tiwari told reporters. Normally, the BIS quality certification is issued after an inspection of the factories. Due to the pandemic restrictions and health concerns, the BIS officials could not visit China, he said. “Neither they invited us for inspection nor we could visit China because of the pandemic,” Tiwari said. In the last two years, Tiwari said the BIS has granted the quality certificate to 29 foreign toy makers, out of which 14 are from Vietnam. The BIS has also issued the quality certificate to 982 Indian toy makers in the same period, he added.
India’s weekly new Covid cases
India’s Covid graph remains stable
The National Health Commission said it would add positive antigen tests as a diagnostic standard and adjust the criteria for discharging COVID patients from hospital.
The adjustments came in the 10th edition of the commission’s policies on Covid.
China’s health authorities have adjusted the latest COVID-19 prevention and control protocols, according to a statement from the National Health Commission on Friday. In its 10th edition, the NHC said it would further optimise clinical categorisation and treatment method of the virus, and add positive antigen tests as a diagnostic standard.
While the Caixin/S&P Global services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) on Thursday showed that the services sector continued to struggle in December, businesses are now hoping that the busy long weekend was a sign that a rebound is on the cards, even if a full recovery will take some time.
Looking ahead to the Lunar New Year festival in late January, cinemas are expecting their busiest single day of the year, while the catering industry should manage to take in revenues matching those from 2019. “I think the most difficult time for China’s tourism industry is behind us, and what didn’t kill us will only make us stronger,” said Haiqing Lu, chief corporate affairs and strategic relations officer at InterContinental Hotels Group Greater China.
China hotels, travel bookings perk up in boon for Covid-hit services sector
After three years of dealing with some of the world’s toughest Covid-19 curbs, there are early signs that Chinese consumers are gearing up to go out and spend again, particularly in major cities and tourist hot spots. Over the three-day New Year’s Day holiday, businesses and consumers caught their first glimpse of a return to post-pandemic life — holiday-makers flocked to beaches, flight numbers ticked up, and hotels turned some guests away because they were fully booked.
China tells European Union to ‘objectively and fairly’ view its Covid situation
The European Union should “objectively and fairly” take stock of China’s epidemic situation, the foreign ministry said on Friday. Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was responding at a regular media briefing to a question on the grouping’s recommendation of pre-departure Covid-19 testing for passengers from China.
Countries mandate Covid tests for China travellers
UNITED STATES: The United States will impose mandatory Covid-19 tests on travellers from China beginning on Jan. 5. All air passengers aged two and older will require a negative result from a test no more than two days before departure from China, Hong Kong or Macau. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said U.S. citizens should reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau.
EU: European Union government officials recommended on Wednesday that passengers flying from China to the EU should have a negative COVID-19 test before they board. They also suggested all passenger on flights to and from China should wear face masks, that EU governments introduce random testing of passengers arriving from China and that they test and sequence wastewater in airports with international flights and planes arriving from China.
GERMANY: Germany is working to implement new entry rules for travellers from China as soon as possible, but it is not possible to say when the first flight will be affected, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Thursday.
GREECE: Air travellers to Greece from China must show they have tested negative for COVID-19 48 hours before arrival, a new requirement that will be announced shortly, two government officials said on Thursday.
SWEDEN: Sweden will require travelers from China to show they have tested negative for COVID before they can enter the country, the government said.
BRITAIN: The UK will require a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test for passengers from China as of Jan. 5, the Department of Health said on Friday. However, a report in The Independent on Monday said passengers from China who arrive in the United Kingdom next week will not face compulsory COVID-19 tests on arrival.
FRANCE: France will require travellers from China to provide a negative COVID test result less than 48 hours before departure. Starting Jan. 1, France will carry out random PCR COVID tests upon arrival on travellers coming from China, a government official told reporters. France has urged all 26 other European Union member states to test Chinese travellers for COVID.
AUSTRALIA: Travellers from China to Australia will need to submit a negative COVID-19 test from Jan. 5, Australian Health Minister Mark Butler said on Sunday.
INDIA: The country has mandated a COVID-19 negative test report for travellers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. Passengers from those countries will be quarantined if they show symptoms or test positive.
CANADA: Air travellers to Canada from China must test negative for COVID-19 no more than two days before departure, Ottawa said.
JAPAN: The country will require negative coronavirus test results within 72 hours of passengers boarding direct flights from China, the prime minister said on Jan 4. That is in addition to an existing regulation that passengers who had been in China in the seven days prior to their flight will be subject to a COVID-19 test on arrival in Japan. Those who test positive will be required to quarantine for seven days.
ITALY: Italy has ordered COVID-19 antigen swabs and virus sequencing for all travellers from China. Milan’s main airport, Malpensa, has already started testing passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai.
SPAIN: Spain will require a negative COVID-19 test or a full course of vaccination against the disease upon arrival for travellers from China.
MALAYSIA: Malaysia will screen all inbound travellers for fever and test wastewater from aircraft arriving from China for COVID-19.
TAIWAN: Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said all passengers on direct flights from China, as well as by boat at two offshore islands, will have to take PCR tests upon arrival, starting on Jan. 1.
SOUTH KOREA: South Korea will require travellers from China, Macau and Hong Kong to provide negative COVID test results before departure, health authorities said.
MOROCCO: Morocco will impose a ban on people arriving from China, whatever their nationality, from Jan. 3.
QATAR: Qatar will require travellers arriving from China from Jan. 3 to provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours of departure, state news agency QNA said.
BELGIUM: Belgium will test wastewater from planes arriving from China for new COVID variants as part of new steps against the spread of the coronavirus, the government announced on Monday.
ISRAEL: Newly appointed Health Minister Aryeh Deri announced new COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers from China, joining other nations imposing restrictions because of a surge of infections, according to the Times of Israel.
A team of researchers led by researchers at AIIMS Patna have found that COVID can lead to multi organ damage through the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 receptor (ACE2), which is abundant in testicular tissue. ACE2 acts as the receptor for the COVID spike protein which facilitates the entry of virus into the host cells.
People using public transport should wear masks and pay special attention to their health and personal hygiene, Vice Minister Xu Chengguang told reporters at a briefing.
The call stopped short of asking citizens to stay home entirely, as the government had since the pandemic began, although some local governments have urged migrant workers not to return home. China abruptly ended a strict regime of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing in December amid growing concerns about the economic impact and rare public protests in a country that permits no open political dissent.
China is seeking to minimize the possibility of a major new Covid-19 outbreak during this month’s Lunar New Year travel rush following the end of most pandemic containment measures. The Transportation Ministry on Friday called on travelers to reduce trips and gatherings, particularly if they involve elderly people, pregnant women, small children and those with underlying conditions.
Doctors analysed 25,558 pregnant women who were admitted at Sassoon between 2020 and 2022.
Out of the 22 maternal deaths the hospital recorded, eight or 36% occurred during the first wave, another eight were during the second wave and six (28%) were during the third wave. Mortality rate was just 0.24 among pregnant women without Covid, but was 8.6 in those with the infection, the study stated.
Covid-19 infection in pregnant women, especially if they are underweight, unvaccinated or with a pre-pregnancy medical condition, can put both mother and child at risk of severe outcomes, a study by Sassoon hospital has stated.
State officials have intensified the Covaxin booster drive to try and save nine lakh doses of the vaccine that are set to expire by the end of this month. According to state data, there are over one crore beneficiaries due for a Covaxin booster dose. Encouragingly, turnouts at vaccination centres are slowly increasing, officials said, adding that CoWIN shows at least 4,000 booster doses are now being administered daily.
India logged 228 new coronavirus infections, while the active cases declined to 2,503, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday. The Covid case tally was recorded at 4.46 crore (4,46,79,547). The death toll stands at 5,30,714, with four deaths. Two deaths were reconciled by Kerala while one death each was reported from Bihar and Uttarakhand in last 24 hours, the data updated at 8 am stated.
Greece, Germany and Sweden on Thursday joined more than a dozen countries to demand Covid tests from Chinese travellers, as the World Health Organisation said China’s official virus data was under-reporting the true extent of its outbreak.
Chinese officials and state media have struck a defiant tone, defending the handling of the outbreak, playing down the severity of the surge and denouncing foreign travel requirements on its residents.
From Sunday, Jan. 8, China will drop a requirement for inbound travellers to quarantine, the latest dismantling of its “zero-Covid” regime that began last month following historic protests against a suffocating series of mass lockdowns.
But the abrupt changes have exposed many of China’s 1.4 billion population to the virus for the first time, triggering an infection wave that is overwhelming some hospitals, emptying pharmacy shelves of medication and causing international alarm.
With China days away from dropping border controls that have effectively shut it off from the rest of the world for three years, countries are lining up to impose curbs on travellers from China to contain its raging Covid-19 outbreak.
Taiwan offers China help again to deal with Covid surge
Taiwan has again offered to provide China with assistance to help it deal with a surge in Covid-19 cases but Chinese authorities have not yet responded, official Taiwan media reported late on Thursday. China scrapped its stringent Covid controls last month after protests against them, abandoning a policy that had shielded its 1.4 billion population from the virus for three years.
Some protesters from Beijing and Shanghai had mentioned that they had to face heightened digital surveillance, strip searches, threats to their families and physical duress during these interrogations by the Chinese police for participating in the protests
It is not exactly clear how the exact tracing of the protestors was possible for the protests but insights from lawyers, analysts, protesters and police purchasing documents offer some hints at the types of tools used. The Washington Post report mentions one theory although it is difficult to prove that the police used cell signal towers to pull all phone numbers from locations where crowds gathered and then deployed officers en masse to work through the list.
China subjects Covid protesters to intense surveillance, interrogation
The Chinese protesters who demonstrated against the zero-Covid policy were subjected to intense surveillance measures and aggressive interrogations in police custody, reported Cate Cadell and Christian Shepherd in The Washington Post. Even though China revoked its Zero Covid Policy following the protests, China unleashed its police equipped with the latest technology to go after people who had participated in the protests. Dozens of people who took part in the protests have paid heavily for the dissent.
Greece to require negative Covid tests for travellers from China
Air travellers to Greece from China must show they have tested negative for COVID-19 48 hours before arrival, a new requirement that will be announced shortly, two government officials said on Thursday. On Wednesday, the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response group (IPCR) recommended that member states introduce restrictions. Its decisions are usually published within days but Friday is a public holiday in Greece.
With few entry tests, Southeast Asia may gain most from China’s travel revival
Southeast Asia’s tourist economies are set to be leading beneficiaries of China’s scrapping of travel bans as they have steered clear of the COVID-19 tests before entry that Europe, Japan and the United States have imposed on Chinese visitors.Even as the virus tears through its 1.4 billion people, the world’s second largest economy is opening its borders from Sunday, a move that promises to unleash a wave of travellers eager for diversion after three years of strict curbs at home.Such newly mobile Chinese tourists will opt for “minimal hassle” and head for destinations that do not demand testing, which in turn stands to benefit Southeast Asia, said CIMB economist Song Seng Wun.
Covid’s XBB.1.5 variant cases rise to 7 in India: INSACOG
The number of COVID-19’s XBB.1.5 variant, responsible for the rise in cases in the US, rose to seven in India as new cases of the variant were found in Chhattisgarh and Telangana, according to INSACOG figures on Thursday.
Of the seven cases, three were found in Gujarat and one each in Karnataka, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) said.
The XBB.1.5 strain is a relative of the Omicron XBB variant, which is a recombinant of the Omicron BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 subvariants. Combined, XBB and XBB.1.5 make up 44 per cent of cases in the US.
Taiwan offers China help again to deal with Covid surge
Taiwan has again offered to provide China with assistance to help it deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases but Chinese authorities have not yet responded, official Taiwan media reported late on Thursday.
China scrapped its stringent COVID controls last month after protests against them, abandoning a policy that had shielded its 1.4 billion population from the virus for three years.
Victor Wang, Head of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre, told the official Central News Agency it sent an email to Chinese authorities this week and asked how Taiwan could help with the surge of cases in China.
As many as 124 passengers who arrived in India from abroad between December 24 and January 3 were found positive for Covid-19 and tests revealed presence of eleven Omicron sub-variants which had been earlier reported in India, health ministry sources said on Thursday.
The sources said the 11 variants of SARS-CoV-2 were identified in Whole Genome Sequencing (WSG) carried out on the samples of 40 of the the passengers who were found positive. They said 19,227 international travellers were tested at airports, sea ports and land ports during this period.
Airline, airport groups slam EU push for pre-flight Covid testing from China
A coalition of airline and airport groups on Thursday criticized new recommendations asking for passengers flying from China to the European Union to show a negative Covid-19 test prior to boarding. EU government officials made the recommendation on Wednesday as Beijing plans to ease travel restrictions despite a wave of new Covid infections.
China has nine domestically-developed vaccines approved for use, including inactivated vaccines, but none have been adapted to target the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and its offshoots that are currently in circulation.
China’s CanSino: ‘positive’ interim data on Covid mRNA vaccine booster trial
China’s CanSino Biologics Inc reported on Thursday “positive” interim data on its experimental Covid-19 mRNA booster vaccine in a mid-stage clinical trial. This is the first early data on one of China’s first home-grown potential vaccines based on mRNA technology as the country races to tame a severe outbreak of infections after abandoning its strict “zero Covid” policy last month.
40 per cent of Chinese people infected with Covid in last month, say experts
As many as 40 per cent of the Chinese population was infected by Covid-19 over the past month amid the rising number of cases in the country, Asia Times reported, citing medical experts. Chinese epidemiologist Zeng Guang said as most Chinese cities reported that 50 per cent of their people had tested positive, it was reasonable to estimate that about 40 per cent of the country’s population on average could have been infected, the Hong Kong-based English news outlet reported.
Covid-19: Union Health Minister cautions people not to panic, remain alert and avoid rumours
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Thursday asked the public not to panic about Covid-19, but be alert and follow the directives issued by the government from time to time. He further said Covid-19 variants will keep coming but the important thing is which variant will react and people should only believe information shared by government sources to avoid any kind of panic in the country.
China defends its Covid response after WHO, Biden concerns
China defended on Thursday its handling of its raging Covid-19 outbreak after US President Joe Biden voiced concern and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Beijing was under-reporting virus deaths. The WHO’s emergencies director, Mike Ryan, said on Wednesday. in some of the UN health agency’s most critical remarks to date, that Chinese officials were under-representing data on several fronts.
Covid infection may impact semen quality in men: AIIMS study
Infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus may negatively impact semen quality, according to a study on 30 males conducted by researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The team led by researchers at AIIMS Patna noted that Covid-19 can lead to multiorgan damage through the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 receptor (ACE2), abundant in testicular tissue.
No new Covid-19 case or death reported in Chhattisgarh; active tally at 10
No new Covid-19 case or fresh death linked to the infection was reported in Chhattisgarh on Wednesday, which kept the overall tally and the toll unchanged at 11,77,759 and 14,146, respectively, a health department official said. There was no rise in the recovery count either, which stood at 11,63,603, leaving the state with 10 active cases, he added. So far, 1,88,45,954 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the state, including 1,680 during the day, a government release said. Chhattisgarh’s coronavirus figures are as follows: Positive cases 11,77,759, new cases (zero), death toll 14,146, recovered 11,63,603, active cases 10, total tests 1,88,45,954.
11 Omicron sub-variants found during testing of international travellers; all earlier reported in India: Sources
Eleven Omicron sub-variants were found among the 124 international travellers who tested positive for Covid-19 between December 24 and January 3 and the presence of all these variants was earlier reported in India, official sources said on Thursday.
The city’s land and sea border checkpoints with the mainland have been largely closed for almost three years and the reopening is expected to provide a much-needed boost to Hong Kong’s tourism and retail sectors.
Despite such concerns, Hong Kong announced it will reopen its border with mainland China on Sunday and allow tens of thousands of people to cross from each side every day without being quarantined.
It was unclear what restrictions people travelling to the mainland side would face.
“Avoid visiting relatives and traveling between regions. Minimize travel.”
Similar appeals were issued by Shouxian county in Anhui province southeast of Beijing and the cities of Qingyang in Gansu province in the northwest and Weifang in Shandong on the east coast. The Weifang government notice said residents should celebrate the holiday with video and phone gatherings.
While the first cases were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, China has claimed the virus originated in the US or Europe and has been accused of withholding data that could help narrow the search for the cause.
In dealing with the latest outbreak, China has sought to get more of its elderly population vaccinated, but those efforts have been hampered by past scandals involving fake medications and previous warnings about adverse reactions to the vaccines among older people.
“At present, China’s Covid-19 situation is under control,” Mao said. “Also, we hope that the WHO secretariat will take a science-based, objective and impartial position to play a positive role in addressing the pandemic globally.”
The terse language between China and the WHO contrasts sharply with what critics in the US Congress and elsewhere called an overly friendly relationship between the two as the UN organisation sought to probe the origins of the pandemic.
China has warned of “countermeasures” if such policies were to be imposed across the bloc.
Still, World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday he was concerned about the lack of outbreak data from the Chinese government. At a daily briefing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing has consistently “shared information and data with the international community in an open and transparent manner.”
Over the past week, EU nations have reacted with a variety of restrictions toward travelers from China, disregarding an earlier commitment to act in unity.
Italy — where the pandemic first exacted a heavy toll in Europe in early 2020 — was the first EU member to require coronavirus tests for airline passengers coming from China, but France and Spain quickly followed with their own measures.
It also comes as the the European Union on Wednesday “strongly encouraged” its member states to impose pre-departure COVID-19 testing of passengers from China.
Hard-pressed nurses and doctors rushed to take information and triage the most urgent cases.
The surge in severely ill people needing hospital care follows China abandonment of its most severe pandemic restrictions last month after nearly three years of lockdowns, travels bans and school closures that weighed heavily on the economy and prompted street protests not seen since the late 1980s.