UK scientists: Gene could double risk of death from Covid – latest updates

Covid-19 has infected more than 249M people and killed over 5M globally. Here are the virus-related updates for November 5:

Around 60 percent of people with South Asian ancestry carry the high-risk gene, researchers at Oxford University said. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP)

Friday, November 5, 2021

Gene linked to doubling risk of death found by UK scientists 

UK scientists: Gene could double risk of death from Covid

British scientists have identified a gene that doubles the risk of dying from Covid-19, providing new insights into why some people are more susceptible to the disease than others, while opening up possibilities for targeted medicine.

Around 60 percent of people with South Asian ancestry carry the high-risk gene, researchers at Oxford University said.

The discovery partly explains the high number of deaths seen in some British communities, and the effect of Covid-19 in the Indian subcontinent.

US vaccine hesitancy starting to dwindle

The United States is steadily chipping away at vaccine hesitancy and driving down Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations to the point that schools, governments and corporations are lifting mask restrictions yet again.

Nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated and the nation’s over-65 population, which bore the brunt of the pandemic when it started nearly two years ago, is enthusiastically embracing vaccines.

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Nearly 98 percent of the over-65 population has received at least one Covid-19 shot and more than 25 percent of them have gotten boosters, just weeks after they were authorized.

The improving metrics could get a boost from President Joe Biden’s workplace mandate unveiled Thursday and the launch of Covid-19 shots in elementary-age students.

Booster shots after six months in Germany 

Germany will offer a Covid-19 booster to all vaccinated people six months after receiving their previous dose, Health Minister Jens Spahn announced on Friday.

“Booster shots after six months should become the norm, not the exception,” Spahn said following a meeting with health ministers from the country’s federal states, adding that this will provide stronger protection.

Germany reported a record 37,120 new coronavirus cases on Friday, marking the highest single-day count since the pandemic began early last year. The surge in new infections raised fears that the winter would lead to more outbreaks.

France deaths up by 26 

France has reported 90,963 coronavirus deaths, up by 26, and 8,998 new cases.

The country reports 1,089 people are in intensive care units (ICUs) for Covid-19, down by 10.

Italy Covid-19 cases go up 

Italy has reported 6,764 coronavirus cases, up from 5,905 on Thursday, according to the health ministry.

Pfizer says antiviral pill cuts risk of severe Covid-19 by 89 percent

A trial of Pfizer Inc’s experimental antiviral pill for Covid-19 was stopped early after the drug was shown to cut by 89 percent the chances of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of developing severe disease, the company said.

The results appear to surpass those seen with Merck & Co Inc’s pill molnupiravir, which was shown last month to halve the likelihood of dying or being hospitalized for patients also at high risk of serious illness.

Full trial data is not yet available from either company.

Pfizer said it plans to submit interim trial results for its pill, which is given in combination with an older antiviral called ritonavir, to the US Food and Drug Administration as part of the emergency use application it opened in October.

The combination treatment, which will have the brand name Paxlovid, consists of three pills given twice daily.

The planned analysis of 1,219 patients in Pfizer’s study looked at hospitalizations or deaths among people diagnosed with mild to moderate Covid-19 with at least one risk factor for developing severe disease, s uch as obesity or older age.

It found that 0.8 percent of those given Pfizer’s drug within three days of symptom onset were hospitalised and none had died by 28 days after treatment. That compared with a hospitalisation rate of 7 percent for placebo patients. There were also seven deaths in the placebo group.

Germany sees second straight Covid case record

Germany has recorded its second consecutive daily record for new coronavirus cases as infections pick up across Europe, and its disease control center said unvaccinated people now face a “very high” risk of infection.

The country saw 37,120 reported new infections over the past 24 hours, according to the disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute. That compared with Thursday’s figure of 33,949 – which in turn topped the previous record of 33,777 set on December 18 last year.

While it’s possible that the figures were pushed up by delayed testing and reporting following a regional holiday on Monday in some of the worst-affected areas, they underlined a steady rise in infections over recent weeks that has put Covid-19 firmly back in the headlines in Germany.

South Korea buys 30M doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for 2022 

South Korea has purchased an additional 30 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for 2022, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said in a statement.

Japan eases border rules 

The first step in Japan’s planned phased re-opening of borders, which centres on business travellers, will be put into effect from November 8, the government said.

The phased easing was confirmed earlier this week, but fell short of demands from business lobbies for rules more closely aligned with those of major trading partners.

The change will shorten Covid-19 quarantine periods for inbound business travellers from 10 days to three, if they have proof of vaccination, the government said.

Students and trainee workers with valid visas will also be allowed in.

No mention was made of tourists, or of media reports that the daily limits on the numbers of border entrants would be raised to 5,000 people later this month from 3,500.

Russia records 40,735 new Covid-19 cases

Russia has reported 40,735 new Covid-19 cases and 1,192 deaths related to the virus as the authorities fight a surge that has forced them to re-impose a partial lockdown nationwide.

The government coronavirus task force said that collective immunity in the country stood at 48 percent. That was a slight increase from 46.8 percent a week ago, just before the start of a week-long workplace shutdown announced by President Vladimir Putin to try to slow the spread of the disease.

Brazil reports 436 new Covid-19 deaths

Brazil has reported 436 deaths and 13,352 additional cases.

The South American country has now registered a total of 608,671 deaths and 21,849,137 total confirmed cases, according to data released by the nation’s Health Ministry.

 US mandates vaccines or tests for big companies

Tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be fully vaccinated against the virus or get tested for the virus on a weekly basis according to government policy.

The new requirements are the Biden administration’s boldest move yet to persuade reluctant Americans to finally get a vaccine that has been widely available for months — or face financial consequences. If successful, administration officials believe it will go a long way toward ending a pandemic that has killed more than 750,000 Americans.

First previewed by President Joe Biden in September, the requirements will apply to about 84 million workers at medium and large businesses, although it is not clear how many of those employees are unvaccinated.

Former US Rep Collins dies at 82 after contracting virus

Barbara-Rose Collins, who represented Detroit in Congress and served on its City Council, has died after contracting the virus. She was 82.

Collins’ family confirmed her death to The Detroit News, the newspaper reported.

Christopher Collins, 51, said his mother had been vaccinated against the the virus, but still fell ill and was hospitalised before her death.

Arizona won’t stop using Covid-19 money for anti-mask grants

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is defying a demand that he stop using federal virus relief money to fund an education grant program that can only go to schools without mask mandates.

The Republican governor also is continuing a program that gives private school vouchers to parents upset that their children’s schools require masks or quarantines after being exposed to the virus.

In a letter sent to the US Treasury Department, Ducey’s federal grant team manager ignored the department’s demand that he stop using the money. Instead, Jason Mistlebauer said the money was appropriately being used to help students who were harmed by school mask mandates.

Ducey, a Republican, created the grant programs in August to put pressure on school districts that have defied the state’s ban on mask mandates. That ban was later overturned by the courts, but Ducey has not removed the limits on which school districts qualify.

The Treasury Department last month said the grant programs are “not a permissible use” of the federal funding.

It was one of a series of efforts by the Biden administration to push back against Republican governors who have opposed mask mandates and otherwise sought to use federal pandemic funding to advance their own agendas.

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