Health News Roundup: Germany extends COVID curbs as infections threaten infrastructure; New York judge strikes down state mask mandate and more
Britain's MHRA medicine regulator approved the pill, made by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, in November, and the government launched a national study to establish the best way to use the drug. Australia COVID-19 deaths mount as return to school threatens new Omicron peak Australia recorded another surge of COVID-19 deaths on Monday as an outbreak of the highly contagious Omicron variant peaked, and authorities warned numbers could rise further when schools return from end-of-year holidays next week.
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Germany extends COVID curbs as infections threaten infrastructure
Germany on Monday extended its current pandemic measures as the expert's panel appointed by the government has warned the fast spreading Omicron coronavirus variant could bring critical infrastructure in Europe's biggest economy to a breaking point. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had agreed with the heads of the federal states to extend restrictions such as limiting private gatherings to 10 ten people and requiring proof of booster vaccination or a negative test at restaurants.
New York judge strikes down state mask mandate
A New York judge struck down the state's mask mandate on Monday, one week before it was due to expire, ruling the governor overstepped her authority in imposing a rule that needed to have been passed by the state legislature. Judge Thomas Rademaker of New York State Supreme Court on Long Island found that the state legislature last year curbed any governor's ability to issue decrees, such as a mask mandate, amid a declared state of emergency.
U.S. COVID peak may be over but not the pain as deaths rise
Even as COVID-19 cases drop and hospitalizations show signs of plateauing in hard-hit pockets of the United States, the still-rising death toll from the Omicron variant highlights the trail of loss that follows every virus surge. Coronavirus deaths hit an 11-month high on Sunday, climbing 11% in the past week when compared to the prior week, according to a Reuters.
The U.S. health regulator revised on Monday the emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly to limit their use, as the drugs are unlikely to work against the Omicron coronavirus variant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the treatments are currently not cleared for use in any U.S. states or territories, but may be authorized in certain regions if they work against potential new variants.
COVID cases reported on Australian aid vessel sailing to virus-free Tonga
About two dozen cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among the crew of an Australian warship expected to arrive in coronavirus-free Tonga on Wednesday to deliver humanitarian aid, Australian authorities said on Tuesday. Tonga, hit by a massive volcanic eruption and a tsunami on Jan. 15, has asked for aid to be delivered without human contact amid concerns a COVID outbreak would be devastating for the tiny Pacific island nation.
South Korea's daily count of new coronavirus cases topped 8,000 for the first time on Tuesday, as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads rapidly despite the recent extension of strict social-distancing rules to slow infection. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 8,571 cases for Monday, exceeding the previous peak posted in mid-December of 7,848.
COVID drives record annual decline in Canadians' life expectancy -Statscan
COVID-19 contributed to the biggest annual reduction in life expectancy on record in Canada in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, Statistics Canada said in preliminary findings released on Monday. While COVID was the third-leading cause of deaths in 2020, Statscan said the impact from the pandemic also likely contributed indirectly with a rise in deaths due to factors such as delayed medical procedures and increased drug-use.
Britain said on Tuesday it needed to recruit 6,000 more people onto a trial of Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir to inform how the drug can be rolled out more widely. Britain's MHRA medicine regulator approved the pill, made by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, in November, and the government launched a national study to establish the best way to use the drug.
Australia COVID-19 deaths mount as return to school threatens new Omicron peak
Australia recorded another surge of COVID-19 deaths on Monday as an outbreak of the highly contagious Omicron variant peaked, and authorities warned numbers could rise further when schools return from end-of-year holidays next week. The world No. 13 economy is trying to strike a balance between reopening after two years of movement restrictions and coping with the highest numbers of deaths and cases of the pandemic.
Do not assume COVID pandemic reaching 'end game', warns WHO
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19's acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic. "It's dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant and that we are in the end game," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting of the two-year pandemic that has killed nearly 6 million people.
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