England has lifted its restrictions implemented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at a press conference at Downing Street, Health Secretary Sajid Javad stated that the England will be lifting the restrictions implemented in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but the legal requirement to self-isolate if tested positive for the virus will continue.
While Health Secretary Sajid Javad stated that it was a major milestone, he also stated that “It’s not the end of the road and we shouldn’t see this as the finish line because we cannot eradicate this virus and its future variants. Instead we must learn to live with Covid in the same way we have to live with flu”.
This has also meant that the work-from-home guidance would be ending with the majority of the nation’s workforce reverting to pre-pandemic work schedules. Additionally, students will also be no longer required to wear masks at schools.
Moreover, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also confirmed that the Government plans to end the legal requirement for positive cases to isolate by late March, but may move the date forward.
The U.S. has also hinted that the pandemic may be heading towards an end. Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that the Omicron variant may mark the end of the pandemic.
Chinese experts caution against over-disinfection for COVID-19
Chinese health experts have cautioned against inappropriate disinfection practices to curb the spread of COVID-19, and called for minimizing the impact on people’s regular life when conducting necessary disinfection.
“We should avoid blind or excessive disinfection, and make it targeted. Disinfection is only necessary when the virus transmission can be cut off this way,” said Zhang Liubo, chief disinfection specialist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
“If we have multiple methods to block the spread of the virus, we can choose the safest, most effective, economical and convenient one. Disinfection is one of the available options,” he added.
For example, items not touched by the infected people in their homes can be sealed off and left unattended for a period of time, instead of getting disinfectant sprayed on them, according to Zhang.
During the battle against the latest Omicron wave in China, there have been media reports and online complaints about some questionable disinfecting approaches, such as workers in protective gear spraying disinfectant all over someone’s home.
Is indoor disinfection necessary?
In accordance with China’s Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, places and items contaminated by infectious disease pathogens should be strictly disinfected, said Lei Zhenglong, deputy head of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control at the National Health Commission.
Disinfection of places that may have been contaminated by the coronavirus, such as the living areas of the infected people, has played an important role in ensuring the safety of the environment, he said.
Zhang further explained that after the infected people were relocated to other places, there might still be living virus on the objects or in the environment that have been contaminated, which need to be sanitized.
Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether there still exist living virus in the contaminated environment, because how long the virus can survive on the surfaces of objects is associated with a lot of factors, including the characteristics of the virus, the viral load, the temperature, humidity and the intensity of sunlight in the environment, he said.
Previous studies have shown that the novel coronavirus can live for two to three days on environmental surfaces, and even up to 28 days under certain conditions.
It is also possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, both Chinese and foreign health authorities like the U.S. CDC have said.
Terminal disinfection of the contaminated places can ensure that the environment and the objects are free of living virus. Therefore, indoor disinfection of infected people’s homes is one of the effective measures to prevent against the virus transmission among family members.
Safe and effective disinfection stressed
Although proper disinfection of the contaminated environment is necessary, Lei pointed out that there have been problems in the disinfection practices in some places, like inadequate communication with the affected residents and improper operations.
It’s necessary to strengthen the training of proper disinfection procedures, as well as the supervision of the disinfection process, he said.
When organizing indoor disinfection of someone’s home, local health authorities should strictly follow relative technical specifications and procedures, and keep the residents informed about the whole process, so that they can understand and support the disinfection work, he added.
People should choose safe and effective disinfectants and disinfecting methods, Zhang said, adding that different methods should be adopted for different items and materials.
They should also protect the valuables and minimize the damage to the objects inside some’s home when conducting the disinfection work, he noted.
China may have prevented 50,000 COVID-related deaths: WHO data
hina’s COVID-19 control measures may have prevented more than 50,000 people from dying of the pandemic, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The data, released by WHO in May, listed numbers of “global excess deaths” related directly or indirectly to COVID-19 from the start of 2020 to end of 2021, among which China’s accumulated number is below zero, meaning China could have lost more people if the control measures were not taken.
The mean number for accumulated excess deaths in China is minus 52,063, the lowest among all 194 countries listed in the WHO dataset.
WHO said the numbers were calculated based on the all-cause death number in a region, be it reported or projected, minus the number of deaths that would have been expected if COVID never happened.
The number not only includes deaths caused directly by COVID-19, but also includes indirect deaths resulted from “the wider impact of the pandemic on health systems and society,” said the WHO on its website.
WHO said the number can provide “a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of COVID-19 beyond the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by countries,” and can “reveal a picture of its full impact and burden on countries, health systems and individuals.”
Other countries scored a big minus number include Japan, Australia, Sri Lanka and the DPRK, which also could have prevented thousands from dying of COVID-related social impacts.
Countries with large number of excess deaths include India, Russia, Indonesia, the U.S. and Brazil.
More than half of Americans have had COVID-19 infections, U.S. study shows
Following a record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, some 58 percent of the U.S. population overall and more than 75 percent of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a U.S. nationwide blood survey released on Tuesday.
The study issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the U.S. population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in the United States.
Before Omicron arrived in December of 2021, a third of the U.S. population had evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Omicron drove up infections in every age group, according to the new data, but children and adolescents, many of whom remain unvaccinated, had the highest rates of infection, while people 65 and older – a heavily vaccinated population – had the lowest.
During the December to February period – when Omicron cases were raging in the United States – 75.2 percent of children aged 11 and younger had infection-related antibodies in their blood, up from 44.2 percent in the prior three-month period. Among those 12-17, 74.2 percent carried antibodies, up from 45.6 percent from September to December.
Scientists looked for specific antibodies produced in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are only present after an infection and are not generated by COVID-19 vaccines. Trace amounts of these antibodies can remain in the blood for as long as two years.
“Having infection-induced antibodies does not necessarily mean you are protected against future infection,” said the CDC’s Kristie Clarke, co-author of the study, during a media briefing. “We did not look at whether people had a level of antibodies that provides protection against reinfection or severe disease.”
U.S. COVID-19 infections are on the upswing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during the briefing, rising 22.7 percent in the past week to 44,000 per day. Hospitalizations rose for the second week in a row, up 6.6 percent, largely driven by subvariants of Omicron.
While deaths fell 13.2 percent, week-over-week, the United States is fast approaching the grim milestone of 1 million total COVID-related deaths.
Walensky said the BA.1 variant, which caused the Omicron wave, now only accounts for 3 percent of U.S. transmission. Increasingly, she said a subvariant first discovered in upstate New York called BA.2.121 makes up nearly 30 percent of U.S. cases, and appears to be 25 percent more transmissible than even the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.
In certain counties with high COVID-19 community spread, the CDC now recommends people wear a mask in public indoor settings. It cited upstate New York and the Northeast region as areas where hospitalizations have been rising.
Walensky said the CDC continues to recommend masking in all indoor public transportation settings, and stressed that vaccination remains the safest strategy for preventing complications from COVID-19.
More than 66 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 46 percent have had a booster, according to federal data.
The U.S. daily COVID-19 case number is forecast to double from 40,223 cases on April 23 to 80,418 by May 7, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, a magazine. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are expected to decline over the next month, based on an ensemble forecast from 24 modeling groups of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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