Health News Roundup: German daily COVID cases rise above 200,000, causing staff shortages; As Omicron ebbs, England revives Plan A: living with COVID and more
However, this increased to around 95% two weeks after receiving a booster vaccine dose. Finland moves up planned easing of COVID restrictions Finland will begin gradually easing COVID-19 restrictions from Feb. 1 instead of mid-February as initially planned as the burden on its hospitals eases, the government said late on Thursday.
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Booster shots could cut Europe's COVID hospitalisations by up to 800,000 -EU
Booster shots could reduce future hospitalisations in Europe by at least half a million, the European Union's public health agency said on Thursday, even as the Omicron variant spreads at an unprecedented pace. "The current uptake of a booster dose achieved by early January may reduce future Omicron hospital admissions by 500,000 - 800,000" in Europe, the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) said.
Hong Kong to cut quarantine for arrivals to 14 days from next month
Hong Kong will cut quarantine for arriving travellers to 14 days from 21 starting Feb. 5, leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday, a move that follows intense lobbying from finance executives and diplomats who said the measure was hurting competitiveness. Tough coronavirus rules have made Hong Kong one of the world's most isolated cities, with flights down as much as 90%.
UAE convoy of one million COVID-19 vaccines reaches Gaza -state media
A United Arab Emirates medical convoy of one million COVID-19 vaccines reached the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday, state news agency WAM said on Thursday. The report said the Sputnik shots were the biggest medical support convoy from the UAE to the Palestinian strip since the start of the pandemic.
German daily COVID cases rise above 200,000, causing staff shortages
The number of new COVID-19 infections in Germany exceeded 200,000 in a day for the first time on Thursday, hitting staffing at companies including Lufthansa Cargo. The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 203,136 positive tests in the last 24 hours, 69,600 cases more than the same day a week ago.
After an uncomfortable but relatively brief return to coronavirus restrictions triggered by the Omicron variant, England is going back to "Plan A" - learning to live with a disease that is probably here to stay. The bet is that booster jabs, antiviral pills and Omicron's lower severity will enable the government to manage outbreaks of a virus that cannot be shut out. Other countries equally keen to unshackle business and personal freedom will be watching.
Biden says 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance since November
President Joe Biden said on Thursday 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance since Nov. 1, attributing the progress to the passage of his pandemic relief package and the re-opening of an online health insurance marketplace last year. The data includes more than 10 million who enrolled through a U.S government website HealthCare.gov during an open enrollment period, Biden said in a statement. He said the numbers were the "highest ever produced" during such an event.
Boosters increase protection against death from Omicron in over-50s to 95% - UKHSA
COVID-19 boosters increase protection against death from the Omicron variant to 95% in people aged 50 or over, the UK Health Security Agency said on Thursday. The UKHSA said that around six months after a second dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines, protection against death with Omicron was around 60% in those aged 50 and over. However, this increased to around 95% two weeks after receiving a booster vaccine dose.
Finland moves up planned easing of COVID restrictions
Finland will begin gradually easing COVID-19 restrictions from Feb. 1 instead of mid-February as initially planned as the burden on its hospitals eases, the government said late on Thursday. On Jan. 18, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Finland would begin scaling back restrictions from mid-February, but signs of stabilization in the infection rate caused by the Omicron variant of the virus led the government to alter its plan.
Paris hospitals chief sparks debate on whether unvaccinated patients should pay for treatment
The head of the Paris hospitals system has set off a fierce debate by questioning whether people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to have their treatment covered by public health insurance. Under France's universal healthcare system, all COVID patients who end up in intensive care are fully covered for their treatment, which costs about 3,000 euros ($3,340) per day and typically lasts a week to 10 days.
EU drug regulator OKs Pfizer COVID pill for high-risk patients
The European Union's drug regulator on Thursday gave the green light to Pfizer Inc's antiviral COVID-19 pill for treating adults at risk of severe illness, as the region scrambles to boost its arsenal to fight the Omicron variant. The endorsement by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a conditional approval, if followed as usual by the European Commission, allows EU member states to deploy the drug after the regulator gave guidance for its emergency use late last year.
(With inputs from agencies.)