Update on COVID-19 numbers

  • More than 3.7 million people have died from COVID-19 globally.
  • Over half of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated.
  • COVID-19 cases remain high in some parts of the world, like India, where few people have been vaccinated.

Update on COVID-19 numbers

  • Globally, there have been more than 172.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3.7 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The United States has reported more than 33.3 million confirmed cases and more than 596,000 associated deaths.
  • Currently, more than 169.7 million U.S. people have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose. More than 137.4 million people are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Healthline updates this page on weekdays. For up-to-date information about the virus, go here.

6/4/21 4:10 p.m. PDT — CDC director urges teens to get vaccinated

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urged teens to get vaccinated and recommended parents who have questions to speak with their child’s health providers, local pharmacists, or health departments, reported The Washington Post.

“I strongly encourage parents to get their teens vaccinated, as I did mine,” she said during a briefing yesterday, reported the Post.

Walensky added that until teens are fully vaccinated, “they should continue to wear masks and take precautions when around others who are not vaccinated to protect themselves, their friends, family and community.”

6/3/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Biden administration outlines plan to send 25 million vaccines to other countries

With vaccination demand in the United States waning, the Biden administration is now looking to send millions of doses abroad to fight COVID-19, according to Reuters.

About 19 million doses will be given to COVAX, the campaign run by the World Health Organization to get vaccines to developing countries. The other 6 million doses will be given directly to countries including Canada, Mexico, India, and South Korea.

While more than 50 percent of the U.S. population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, many countries have yet to even start a mass vaccination campaign.

The World Health Organization has been pushing for wealthier countries to donate vaccines to poorer countries to fight the pandemic globally. Should a strain develop in other parts of the world, it can quickly spread to the United States.

COVID-19 cases lowest since pandemic began

The United States has brought new COVID-19 cases down to their lowest level since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The country averaged about 15,622 new cases per day over the past week, which is a 30 percent improvement over the week before. Also, new cases declined in 43 states, with the other seven holding steady, reported Axios.

Additionally, since vaccinations are rising, there’s less chance that we could see another major spike similar to what we saw this winter.

According to a recent story in The Washington Post, the risk for unvaccinated people is still about as high as it’s ever been, with an average of roughly 500, mostly unvaccinated, people dying per day from COVID-19 in the United States.

India orders unapproved COVID-19 vaccine as nation struggles against second wave

Today, India signed its first order for an unapproved COVID-19 vaccine, one day after criticism from the South Asian country’s supreme court over a bungled vaccine rollout that left millions of people vulnerable after almost 338,000 deaths, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, only 4.7 percent of the 950 million adult population has received two vaccine doses, as the world’s second most populous country reels from a nationwide second wave of infections that has killed about 170,000 people in April and May alone.

The government will buy 300 million vaccine doses from local firm Biological-E, and has put down an advance of $205.6 million, the health ministry said, even though the vaccine is still going through phase 3 clinical trials, reported Reuters.

“The arrangement with Biological-E is part of the wider endeavor of the government of India to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research & development and also financial support,” the ministry said in a statement, reported CTV News.

According to CTV News, the official recorded caseload since the start of the pandemic now stands at 28.4 million, which is the second-highest in the world after the United States.

6/2/21 7:00 p.m. PDT — 12 states have already achieved Biden’s goal of 70% adults vaccinated against COVID-19

Twelve states have now reached the Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 70 percent of adults with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, according to data published yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported CNN.

According to CNN, those states are California, Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

About 168.5 million people — nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 41 percent of the population — roughly 136 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, CNN reported.

New trial will research whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched

The National Institutes of HealthTrusted Source is examining whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched for booster shots.

The NIH study will see whether fully vaccinated people do better if they receive a booster shot 20 weeks after initial vaccination. Those new booster shots will not need to match the original type of vaccine given to the participant.

“We need to prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH.

“The results of this trial are intended to inform public health policy decisions on the potential use of mixed vaccine schedules should booster doses be indicated,” he said.

6/1/21 2:55 p.m. PDT — COVID variants to be named after Greek letters, WHO announces

The World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source will assign simple, easy to say and remember labels for key variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by using letters of the Greek alphabet.

The WHO will assign labels for COVID-19 variants designated as Variants of Interest (VOI) or Variants of Concern (VOC) by WHO, and will be posted on the WHO’s website.

“The U.K. variant, for instance, is labeled Alpha, the South African Beta, and the Indian as Delta,” reported BBC. The WHO said this was to simplify discussions but also to help remove some stigma from the names.

“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, tweeted. Kerkhove also called for “robust surveillance” of variants and the sharing of scientific data to help stop the pandemic from worsening.

CURRENT CASES OF INDIA

Scientists believe that the variant is more transmissible and cases of it nearly tripled to 1,313 in the past week in England.

But Matt Hancock said early lab data showed vaccines remained effective.

He said the majority of those in hospital in Bolton – a hotspot for the Indian variant – were unvaccinated.

The health secretary said that the variant, known as B.1.617.2, was “relatively widespread in small numbers” in most of the country.

It comes as England is due to move to stage three of the government’s roadmap for easing lockdown on Monday, with socialising in groups of six indoors as well as some international travel to be allowed.

On Friday Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the variant could pose “serious disruption” to the final stage of lockdown easing in England on 21 June.

India covid-19 double mutacion

A new “double mutant” variant of the coronavirus has been detected from samples collected in India.

Officials are checking if the variant, where two mutations come together in the same virus, may be more infectious or less affected by vaccines.

Some 10,787 samples from 18 Indian states also showed up 771 cases of known variants – 736 of the UK, 34 of the South African and one Brazilian.

Officials say the variants are not linked to a spike in cases in India.

India reported 47,262 cases and 275 deaths on Wednesday – the sharpest daily rise this year.

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a group of 10 national laboratories under India’s health ministry, carried out genomic sequencing on the latest samples. Genomic sequencing is a testing process to map the entire genetic code of an organism – in this case, the virus.

The genetic code of the virus works like its instruction manual. Mutations in viruses are common but most of them are insignificant and do not cause any change in its ability to transmit or cause serious infection. But some mutations, like the ones in the UK or South Africa variant lineages, can make the virus more infectious and in some cases even deadlier.

Virologist Shahid Jameel explained that a “double mutation in key areas of the virus’s spike protein may increase these risks and allow the virus to escape the immune system”.

The spike protein is the part of the virus that it uses to penetrate human cells.

The government said that an analysis of the samples collected from India’s western Maharashtra state showed “an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations” compared with December last year.

“Such [double] mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity,” the health ministry said .

Dr Jameel added that “there may be a separate lineage developing in India with the L452R and E484Q mutations coming together”.

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Are double mutants a worry?

Soutik Biswas, BBC News, Delhi

Mutations in the spike gene can make the virus inherently “better” at infecting people or can help the virus to escape neutralising antibodies.

This means if the virus mutates in the “right way”, it can reinfect someone who has already recovered from Covid-19.

But scientists say reinfections will be very mild compared to primary infections in people who are vaccinated or who recovered already from an earlier case of Covid-19.

But if the virus can use reinfection to spread, then it would be “penetrating” herd immunity, says Dr Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport. (Herd immunity happens when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease through vaccination or through the mass spread of the disease.)

This puts the most vulnerable people at risk of severe disease, since the virus can move through the herd to reach them.

He says unlike some other variants, India’s new double variant is not likely to be more deadly or more inherently transmissible, but that more data is needed to be sure.

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The Indian government denies that the rise in cases is linked to the mutations.

“Though VOCs [variants of concern] and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states,” the health ministry said.

The recent report comes after several experts had asked the government to step up genome sequencing efforts.

“We need to constantly monitor and make sure none of the variants of concern are spreading in the population. The fact that it is not happening now doesn’t mean it will not happen in the future. And we have to make sure that we get the evidence early enough,” Biswas earlier this month.

Presentational white space

India became the fifth country in the world to sequence the genome of the novel coronavirus after isolating it from some of the first cases recorded in January last year.

More than 11.7 million cases and 160,000 deaths later, efforts are continuing to identify mutations.

The latest surge – which began this month – comes during what some experts have called a “delicate phase” for India – the healthcare system is already exhausted from a year-long battle against the coronavirus.

States have already begun re-introducing restrictions, including curfews and intermittent lockdowns.

Two major cities, Delhi and Mumbai, have also ordered randomised rapid tests at airports, railway stations and crowded areas such as shopping malls.

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

Over 95 percent of Americans killed by COVID-19 have been 50 or older

Coronavirus & COVID-19 Overview: Symptoms, Risks, Prevention, Treatment &  More
  • FDA, CDC urge pause of J&J vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint statement on April 13 recommending that use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine be paused “out of an abundance of caution” while the agencies investigate six cases of a rare and serious type of blood clot, in combination with low levels of platelets, in women in the United States. As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered, so these incidents “appear to be extremely rare,” the statement says. The six women who experienced the clot are between the ages of 18 and 48 and the clots occurred between six and 13 days after they received the J&J shot. The statement urges people who have received the J&J vaccine and develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after their vaccination to contact their health care provider. The J&J vaccine was created using a different technology than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and the federal agencies are not recommending any pause of those two products. A CDC advisory committee on April 14 voted to keep the pause in place until more information is available.
  • Leaving middle seats open on airplanes can reduce COVID exposure. A new CDC report based on a laboratory model found that when middle seats were left open on airplanes, risk of exposure to coronavirus particles was reduced by 23 to 57 percent, compared with full aircraft occupancy. However, it’s not yet understood whether the extra space could decrease virus transmission and infection. “Based on a data-driven model, approaches to physical distancing, including keeping middle seats vacant, could reduce exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft,” the authors write. Current CDC guidelines recommend delaying travel unless you are fully vaccinated.
  • Infections and hospitalizations continue to rise. The seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases continues to rise and is now nearing 70,000 daily cases, according to CDC data. Hospitalizations are also on the rise — up about 7 percent from the previous seven-day period.
  • Drugmaker Regeneron to seek expanded authorization for antibody treatment. A phase 3 trial for Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV, found the drug has some preventive benefits. It significantly reduced the risk for COVID-19 infection in individuals living infected persons, the company reported on April 12. In individuals who developed symptomatic infections, the drug, given by injection, was found to shorten the duration of disease. “These data suggest that REGEN-COV can complement widespread vaccination strategies, particularly for those at high risk of infection. Importantly, to date REGEN-COV has been shown in vitro to retain its potency against emerging COVID-19 variants of concern,” said Myron Cohen, M.D., who leads the monoclonal antibody efforts for the NIH-sponsored COVID Prevention Network (CoVPN) and is Director of the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Regeneron says it plans to submit the data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand its authorization to include COVID-19 prevention “for appropriate populations.” 
  • Two new CDC reports highlight racial and ethnic disparities during the pandemic. In each region of the country, the proportion of hospitalized COVID-19 patients was highest among Hispanics and Latinos, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows. A second study released by the CDC found that Hispanic and American Indian and Alaskan Native individuals were 1.7 times more likely to seek care in emergency departments for COVID-19 from October-December 2020, compared to whites; Black individuals were 1.4 times more likely. “The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportional impact on communities of color is just the most recent and glaring example of health inequities that threaten the health of our nation,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a press briefing on April 12. She added, “We must acknowledge the disparities that exist and commit to an equitable distribution of vaccines, particularly to those communities that have been hardest hit by the virus.” 
  • CDC declares racism a serious public health threat. The CDC on April 9 declared racism a serious public health threat and highlighted the pandemic’s disproportionate and devastating impact on communities of color. “Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19. Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation. Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community. These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color.” The CDC pledged to continue to study the impact of the social determinants of health and make investments in disproportionately affected communities, among other efforts.
  • Coronavirus variants spread in U.S. The highly contagious B.1.1.7. variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is now the most common lineage circulating in the U.S., federal health officials said on April 7. To date, 21,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. have been caused by the B.1.1.7. variant. 
  • COVID-19 linked to increased risk for neurological and psychiatric disorders. A new, large study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that roughly 1 in 3 COVID-19 survivors experienced a psychiatric or neurological illness six months after being diagnosed with a coronavirus infection. Anxiety and mood disorders were among the most common illnesses recorded, and patients with severe COVID-19 were at greatest risk for developing a psychiatric or neurological condition. “Services need to be configured, and resourced, to deal with this anticipated need,” the study’s authors write. AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health has more information on COVID-19 and brain health
  • Vaccine eligibility wide open by April 19. All American adults, and not just those prioritized based on their risk, should be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by April 19, President Joseph Biden said on April 6 at the White House. Biden’s new direction to the states updates his earlier request that they make all U.S. adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1. Biden attributed the ability to move the eligibility date up by two weeks to getting enough vaccine supply, creating more places to get vaccinated and enlisting more people to provide the vaccinations. The administration had already announced that by April 19, 90 percent of all Americans would live within five miles of a vaccination site and 40,000 pharmacies would provide vaccines. 
  • CDC updates guidance on cleaning surfaces. Cleaning surfaces with soap or detergent is enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus in most situations, according to new guidance issued April 5 by the CDC. “Disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings, schools and homes where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, within the last 24 hours,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. People can get infected via contaminated surfaces, Walensky said, but the risk is low. Fogging, fumigation and electrostatic spraying is also not recommended and actually carries safety risks, she said.
  • COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death. The CDCreleased a report March 31 stating that the coronavirus was the third leading underlying cause of death in the United States in 2020, after cancer and heart disease. About 3.4 million deaths occurred in the nation last year and the death rate increased by nearly 16 percent from 2019, according to the report. COVID-19 deaths accounted for about 11 percent of U.S. deaths in 2020.
  • Substance abuse added to the list of conditions that increase risk from COVID-19. The CDC on March 29 streamlined its list of high-risk conditions that put someone at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. The agency also added substance use disorders (such as alcohol, opioid or cocaine use disorder) to the list.
SIME Clinical AI Platform could enable early targeted treatment in  critically ill COVID-19 patients – SIME Clinical AI

What are the Brazil, South Africa and UK variants and will vaccines work?

Covid variant first identified in Brazil have been found in the UK, bringing the total number to 12.

Both – one in the West Midlands and one in Haringey, London – were linked with international travel to Brazil.

Some variants, like this one, appear to be more contagious and there are concerns current vaccines may not work as well.

What are these new variants?

There are many thousands of different versions, or variants, of Covid circulating.

Apart from the Brazil variant (also known as P.1), concerns focus on a few:

It’s not unexpected that new variants have developed – all viruses mutate as they make copies of themselves to spread and thrive.

Most of these differences are inconsequential. A few can even be harmful to the virus’s survival. But some can make it more infectious or threatening.

Are the new ones more dangerous?

There is no evidence that any of them cause much more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected.

As with the original version, the risk is highest for people who are elderly or have significant underlying health conditions.

For the UK variant there is some research suggesting it may be associated with a 30% higher risk of death. The evidence is not conclusive, however.

Measures such as washing your hands, keeping your distance from other people and wearing a face covering will still help prevent infections. Because the new variants appear to spread more easily it is important to be extra vigilant.

What’s happening to the virus?

The UK, South Africa and Brazil variants could be much more contagious or easy to catch.

All three have undergone changes to their spike protein – the part of the virus which attaches to human cells.

As a result, they seem to be better at infecting cells and spreading.

Experts think the UK or “Kent” strain emerged in September and may be up to 70% more transmissible or infectious. The latest research by Public Health England puts it between 30% and 50%.

The South Africa variant emerged in October, and has more potentially important changes in the spike protein. Experts recently found a small number of cases of the UK variant that have one of these more concerning changes too.

It involves a key mutation – called E484K – that may help the virus evade parts of the immune system, called antibodies, that can fight coronavirus based on experience from prior infection or a vaccine.

The Brazil variant emerged in July and has this E484K mutation too.

What are variants and how do they happen?

Will vaccines still work?

Current vaccines were designed around earlier versions of coronavirus, but scientists believe they should still work, although perhaps not quite as well.

A recent study suggests the Brazilian variant may be resisting antibodies in people who should have some immunity because they have caught and recovered from an earlier version of coronavirus.

Early lab results, however, suggest the Pfizer vaccine can protect against the new variants, although slightly less effectively.

Two new coronavirus vaccines that could be approved soon – one from Novavax and another from Janssen – appear to offer some protection too.

Data from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine team suggests it protects just as well against the new UK variant. It offers less protection against the South Africa variant – although it should still protect against severe illness.

Early results from Moderna suggest its vaccine is effective against the South Africa variant, although the immune response may not be as strong or long-lasting.

Variants could emerge in the future that are different again.

Even in the worst case scenario, vaccines could be redesigned and tweaked to be a better match – in a matter of weeks or months, if necessary, say experts.

As with flu, where a new shot is given each year to account for any changes in circulating flu viruses, something similar could happen for coronavirus.

What is being done about it?

More variants will emerge.

Scientists around the world are on the look-out and any important ones will be closely studied and monitored.

Experts are updating coronavirus vaccines. The UK Government has announced a deal with biopharmaceutical company CureVac to develop vaccines against future variants, with a pre-order of 50 million doses.

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Which countries have stopped using AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine?

More than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine amid fears the shot may have caused some recipients to develop serious blood clots.

Germany, Italy, France, and Spain on Monday became the latest nations to halt the rollout, following moves by Ireland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Norway, and The Netherlands.

Other countries have stopped using certain batches of the vaccine, which is jointly produced with the United Kingdom’s University of Oxford.

As fears grew, AstraZeneca said a review of its safety data revealed no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots. The review covered more than 17 million people vaccinated in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The EU’s medicines regulator – the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – and the World Health Organization (WHO) have also expressed confidence in the safety of the vaccine.

As of March 10, there were 30 reports of blood clots among almost five million people across Europe, according to the EMA.

But reassurances appear to have done little to calm doubts. These are the countries that have suspended use of the vaccine to date:

France

President Emmanuel Macron announced France was suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine at least until Tuesday afternoon when the European Medicine Agency is set to publish an opinion.

“The decision has been made… to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution, hoping that we can resume it quickly if the judgement of the EMA allows it,” Macron told a press conference.

“We have a simple guide, to be informed by science and the competent heath authorities and to do it as part of a European strategy.”

Germany

The German government said it is suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine over new reports of dangerous blood clots in connection with the shot.

The health ministry said the decision was taken as a “precaution” and on the advice of Germany’s national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation of the cases.

Italy

Italy’s medicines agency said it joined other European nations in blocking the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.

The move comes just days after Italy’s AIFA regulator banned the use of a single batch as a precaution, while insisting there was no established link to the alleged side-effects.

“AIFA has decided to extend the ban on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine throughout Italy as a precautionary and temporary measure pending European Medicines Agency (EMA) rulings,” it said in a statement.

Spain

Spain is suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for at least a fortnight, the health minister said.

“We have decided to temporarily suspend [use of the AstraZeneca vaccine] as a precaution for at least the next two weeks,” Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters.

Indonesia

Indonesia’s health minister said on March 15 the country would delay administering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine due to the reports of blood clots among some recipients in Europe.

“To be conservative, the food and drug agency delayed implementation of AstraZeneca [vaccine] as it awaits confirmation from the WHO,” said Budi Gunadi Sadikin.

Indonesia received 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via the global COVAX vaccine-sharing programme this month and is set to receive some 10 million more in the next two months.

Netherlands

The Netherlands saw 10 cases of noteworthy adverse side effects, a Dutch drug watchdog said on March 15, hours after the government suspended the vaccine.

The Pharmacovigilance Centre Lareb said the reported incidents included cases of possible thrombosis or embolisms, but none included a lowered number of platelets, as has been reported in Denmark and Norway.

The vaccine will not be used until at least March 29 as a precaution.

Ireland

Ireland announced on March 14 that it had halted AstraZeneca “out of an abundance of caution” after reports from Norway of serious blood clotting in some recipients there.

Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended the suspension pending further information from the EMA.

“It may be nothing, we may be overreacting and I sincerely hope that in a week’s time that we will have been accused of being overly-cautious,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria on March 12 temporarily halted AstraZeneca after reports that a 57-year-old woman died hours after receiving a shot.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said the AstraZeneca rollout would be paused “until all doubts are dispelled and as long as the experts do not give guarantees that it does not pose a risk to the people”.

The woman is believed to have died of heart failure; the autopsy found no blood clots.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced on March 12 it was delaying the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing the European countries’ moves.

DRC received 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses via the COVAX scheme on March 2, but is yet to start its inoculation programme.

“We hear that in Europe there are several countries that have suspended the vaccine. We are going to check to know more about this problem,” a spokesperson for Congo’s health ministry told Reuters news agency.

Thailand

Thailand became the first country outside Europe to delay the AstraZeneca vaccine, on March 12 – the day its political leaders were due to have the first shots.

The suspension was brief, however, with the Thai government announcing on March 15 that political leaders would receive a dose of the vaccine the following day.

Romania

Romania temporarily stopped vaccinating people with one batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine – the same one in question in Italy – on March 11. Officials described the move as an “extreme precaution”.

The suspension will last until the EMA completes an inquiry.

Iceland

Iceland on March 11 suspended jabs with the vaccine as it awaited the results of an investigation by the EMA.

Denmark

Denmark on March 11 announced it was halting the use of the AstraZeneca shot for two weeks, following reports of blood clots in some people who had been vaccinated.

The Danish Medicines Agency later said a 60-year-old Danish woman who died of a blood clot after receiving the vaccine had “highly unusual” symptoms.

The woman had a low number of blood platelets and clots in small and large vessels, as well as bleeding, it said on March 14.

A few similar cases were found in Norway and in the EMA database of drug side effects, the Danish Medicines Agency added.

Norway

Norway also said it was suspending the use of the vaccine on March 11, as a caution amid the reports of possible serious side effects.

On March 13, Norwegian health authorities revealed three health workers – all aged below 50 – who had recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine were being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets.

It is not known if the cases were linked to the vaccine.

“We do not know if the cases are linked to the vaccine,” said Sigurd Hortemo, a senior doctor at the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Austria

Before Denmark and Norway stopped their rollout, Austria on March 7 paused its use of a batch of AstraZeneca shots while investigating a death from coagulation disorders and an illness from a pulmonary embolism.


COVID-19 disease: 10 facts about the novel coronavirus we did not know a year back

Just as we are about to enter another year, it would be unfair to leave without giving the virus that caused trouble to the entire human race, a special mention.

COVID-19 disease: 10 facts about the novel coronavirus we did not know a year back
  • The entire world is currently facing a global pandemic due to coronavirus
  • Despite the emergence of vaccines, it is necessary to take precautionary measures
  • Here are some facts that you must know about coronavirus

New Delhi: It wouldn’t be incorrect to think of 2020 as a mad rollercoaster ride. If we try to put a finger on it, we could definitely count a lot of things that went wrong this year. However, one major positive consequence of a global pandemic was the rise in awareness about health and fitness during this period which was aided greatly by a lockdown. Most of us realised the importance of physical and mental health and after years of suggestions by medical professionals, some of us also started to admit that mental health and physical health are interrelated. Here are some facts about the novel coronavirus that brought humanity on its toes.

Facts about coronavirus

  1. Symptoms can be respiratory: Although fever and fatigue are among the most common symptoms, cough, laboured breathing are some symptoms too. If the situation aggravated, the affected can also suffer from renal failure, pneumonia and acute respiratory syndrome. This can lead to a patient’s death. 
  2. People can be asymptomatic: A person doesn’t need to display symptoms after being contaminated. It was found that some people who tested positive for COVID-19 displayed negligible or no symptoms of the virus.
  3. Hot drinks don’t make people invincible: Myths about hot drinks being able to kill the virus has been around for quite some time. However, there is no evidence of this bring true. Therefore, drinking hot liquids does not make a person invincible.
  4. Loss of smell is a symptom: Anosmia is the term used to define the loss of smell. It is one of the possible symptoms of the virus along with loss of taste, also known as, ageusia.
  5. Heat does not kill the virus: No evidence has been found about heat killing the virus because the virus can survive in hot conditions that may be 25 degree Celsius or above.
  6. Wearing masks is not a joke: Doctors and medical professionals have been talking about the effectiveness of the masks since ages and they are absolutely right about it. Masks can reduce the risk of getting contaminated to great extents.
  7. Virus variant could be an issue: Ever since a variant of COVID-19 surfaced in the United Kingdom, the world has been bothered by other possible variants that can come up and further cause chaos. 
  8. Seemingly clean surfaces may contain the virus: No surface is ever clean enough. Therefore, make sure that you double-check and disinfect it before you touch it. Avoid touching unknown surfaces with hands and try wearing gloves more often.
  9. Asymptomatic people can be contagious: Asymptomatic people may not exhibit any visible symptoms of the virus. However, they can infect other people just like any other symptomatic person. 
  10. Both young and old people are vulnerable: Due to the variation in recovery rate, people may confuse the severity of the virus among young people. Old people may experience more gradual recovery than young people, however, young people are just as vulnerable as old people.

The U.S. Has Its Own New Worrisome Variants

A new study identifies seven variants with the same concerning mutation. Lebanon, enmeshed in overlapping crises, begins its vaccination program.

A new study identifies seven U.S. virus variants with the same worrying mutation

As Americans anxiously watch the spread of coronavirus variants that were first identified in Britain and South Africa, scientists are finding a number of new variants that seem to have originated in the United States — and many of them may pose the same kind of extra-contagious threat.

In a study posted on Sunday, a team of researchers reported seven growing lineages of the coronavirus, spotted in states across the country. All have gained a mutation at the exact same spot in their genes.

“There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and a co-author of the new study.

It’s not clear yet whether this shared mutation makes the variants more contagious, but because it appears in a gene that influences how the virus enters human cells, the scientists are highly suspicious.

“I think there’s a clear signature of an evolutionary benefit,” Dr. Kamil said.

It’s not unusual for different genetic lineages to independently evolve in the same direction. Charles Darwin recognized convergent evolution in animals. Virologists have found that it  happens with viruses too. As the coronavirus branches into new variants, researchers are observing Darwin’s theory of evolution in action every day.

It’s difficult to answer even basic questions about how prevalent the new variants are in the United States because the country sequences genomes from less than 1 percent of coronavirus test samples. The researchers found examples scattered across much of the country, but they can’t tell where they first arose.

It’s also hard to say whether the variants are spreading now because they are more contagious, or for some other reason, like holiday travel or superspreader events.

Scientists say the mutation could plausibly affect how easily the virus gets into human cells. But Jason McLellan, a structural biologist at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the study, cautioned that the way that the coronavirus unleashes its harpoons was still fairly mysterious.

“It’s tough to know what these substitutions are doing,” he said of the mutations. “It really needs to be followed up with some additional experimental data.”

U.S. governors are easing restrictions, but the virus-variant news keeps getting worse.

Robert Jennings taking a saliva sample for a coronavirus test last month in Davis, Calif.
Robert Jennings taking a saliva sample for a coronavirus test last month in Davis, Calif.Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Vaccinations are picking up pace. The spread of the coronavirus in the United States has slowed drastically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging K-12 schools to reopen safely and as soon as possible.

But just as states are again lifting mask-wearing mandates and loosening restrictions, experts fear that more contagious variants could undo all that progress.

That threat seems only to grow as researchers learn more. British government scientists now believe the more contagious variant that is ravaging Britain is also “likely” to be deadlier than earlier versions of the virus, according to a document posted on a government website on Friday. An earlier assessment on a smaller scale warned last month that there was a “realistic possibility” the variant was more lethal.

The variant, also known as B.1.1.7, is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days, another recent study found.

In line with an earlier warning from the C.D.C., the study predicted that by March the variant could become the dominant source of coronavirus infection in the United States, potentially bringing a surge of new cases and increased risk of death.

Beyond that, scientists reported on Sunday that they have begun to spot more new variants that seem to have emerged in the U.S. and are concerned that they may spread more readily than earlier versions.

Vaccine distribution is accelerating — the U.S. is now averaging about 1.66 million doses a day, well above the Biden administration’s target of 1.5 million — but B.1.1.7 has a worrisome mutation that could make it harder to control with vaccines, a Public Health England study found this month.

The variant has spread to at least 82 countries, and is being transmitted 35 percent to 45 percent more easily than other variants in the United States, scientists recently estimated. Most people who catch the virus in Britain these days are being infected by that variant.

The British research on B.1.1.7’s lethality did come with caveats, and the reasons for the variant’s apparently elevated death rate are not entirely clear. Some evidence suggests that people infected with the variant may have higher viral loads, a feature that could not only make the virus more contagious but also potentially undermine the effectiveness of certain treatments.

But government scientists were relying on studies that examined a small proportion of overall deaths. They also struggled to account for the presence of underlying illnesses in people infected with the new variant, and for whether the cases originated in nursing homes.

Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, said that although “we do need to have a degree of caution” in looking at the findings, “it’s perfectly reasonable to think that this is something serious — I am certainly taking it seriously.”

“It’s pretty clear we have something which is both more transmissible and is more worrying if people become infected,” he said.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University, said relaxing restrictions now would be “courting disaster.” She urged Americans to “be extra vigilant” about mask wearing, distancing and avoiding enclosed spaces.

“You don’t want to get any variant,” Dr. Rasmussen said, “but you really don’t want to get B.1.1.7.”

The United States confirmed its first case of the B.1.1.7 variant on Dec. 29. Unlike Britain, it has been conducting little of the genomic sequencing necessary to track the spread of new variants that have caused concern, though the Biden administration has vowed to do more.

On Friday, for the fifth time in six days, the number of new virus cases reported in the United States dipped below 100,000 — far less than the country’s peak of more than 300,000 reported on Jan. 8.As the numbes and hospitalizations has fallen, the Republican governors of Montana, Iowa, North Dakota and Mississippi have recently ended statewide mask-wearing mandates. In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has allowed indoor dining to resume at 25 percent capacity, though experts have repeatedly warned that maskless activities, such as eating, in enclosed spaces are high-risk.

Although virus case numbers are moving in the right direction, the loosening of restrictions has unnerved experts like Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at George Mason University in Virginia.

“Now more than ever, with novel variants, we need to be strategic with these reopening efforts and be slow and not rush things,” she said.Coronavirus Variants and MutationsTracking recent mutations, variants and lineages.