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British COVID-19 variant now in 50 countries, says WHO

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 The coronavirus mutation first found in Britain is now in 50 countries, the World Health Organisation has said.

It also states that a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20 nations.

The UN body noted a third new coronavirus “variant of concern” found in Japan could impact upon immune response and required further investigation.

“The more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge,” said the WHO.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus which causes COVID-19 disease.

Since first being reported to the WHO on December 14, the British-identified variant VOC 202012/01 had been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the agency said.

Test results showed the age and sex distribution was similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data revealed “higher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain.”

The South African-identified variant 501Y.V2, first reported on December 18, has now been detected in 20 countries, territories and areas.

“From preliminary and ongoing investigations in South Africa, it is possible that the 501Y.V2 variant is more transmissible than variants circulating in South Africa previously,” the WHO weekly report said.

It added, “Moreover, while this new variant does not appear to cause more severe illness, the observed rapid increases in case numbers has placed health systems under pressure.”

The geographical spread of both variants was likely underestimated, said the WHO, given a bias towards detection in countries with virus sequencing capacity.

Meanwhile, the agency said it was notified by Japan on January 9 of a new variant detected in four travellers arriving from Brazil. The variant was found in two adults and two children.

“This variant has 12 mutations to the spike protein, including three mutations of concern in common with VOC 202012/01 and 501Y.V2,” it said, adding, “which may impact transmissibility and host immune response.”

The WHO said researchers in Brazil had additionally reported the emergence of a similar variant, which had likely evolved independently of the variant detected in Japan.

“Research is ongoing to determine the impact of new variants on transmission, disease severity as well as any potential impacts on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics,” the organisation said.

COVID-19

China records nearly 13,000 COVID deaths in a week

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China reported nearly 13,000 Covid-related deaths in hospitals between January 13 and 19, after a top health official said the vast majority of the population had already been infected.

The death toll came a week after China said nearly 60,000 people had died with Covid in hospitals in just over a month – but there has been widespread scepticism over official data since Beijing abruptly axed anti-virus controls last month.

China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement on Saturday that 681 hospitalised patients had died of respiratory failure caused by coronavirus infection, and 11,977 had died of other diseases combined with infection over the period.

The figures do not include anyone who died at home.

Airfinity, an independent forecasting firm, has estimated daily Covid deaths in China will peak at about 36,000 over the Lunar New Year holiday.

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The firm also estimated that more than 600,000 people have died from the disease since China abandoned the zero-Covid policy in December.

China has passed the peak period of Covid patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions, Guo Yanhong, an official from the National Health Commission told a news conference on Thursday.

‘No second wave’
Tens of millions of people have travelled across the country in recent days for long-awaited reunions with families to mark Sunday’s Lunar New Year, raising fears of fresh outbreaks.

China’s transport authorities have predicted that more than two billion trips will be made this month into February, in one of the world’s largest mass movements of people.

President Xi Jinping Wednesday expressed concerns over the spread of the virus in rural China, much of which lacks medical resources.

But a top health official said China would not experience a second wave of infections in the months after the festive migration, because nearly 80 per cent of the population had already been infected by the virus.

“Although a large number of people travelling during the Spring Festival may promote the spread of the epidemic to a certain extent… the current wave of epidemic has already infected about 80 per cent of the people in the country,” Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the CDC, said in a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform on Saturday.

“In the short term, for example, in the next two to three months, the possibility of… a second wave of the epidemic across the country is very small.”

Residents in central China’s Wuhan, where the first coronavirus infections were reported in late 2019, celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit on Saturday night with fireworks, flowers and offerings to loved ones they lost to the virus.

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Nigeria records 42 fresh cases of COVID-19 in 14 days

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Fresh 42 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Nigeria in two weeks, with Lagos State topping with 27 cases, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has said.

The NCDC made this known via its official website on Sunday, adding that Edo, Kano, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory contributed the remaining cases.

This is coming amid resurgence of the new variant of the disease from China where the authorities said nearly 60,000 people with COVID-19 had died in hospitals in about a month.

The NCDC said that the new cases brought Nigeria’s total of COVID-19 infections to 266,492 and that the fresh cases were recorded between December 31, 2022 and January 13, 2023.

”From December 31 to January 6, 13 new confirmed cases have been recorded in Nigeria. The 13 new cases are reported from two states – Lagos (12) and Edo (one),” it said.

It confirmed that the country recorded 29 new cases from January 7 to  13; and the new cases are reported from, Lagos (15), FCT (five), Kano (four), Nasarawa (three), Kaduna (one) and Plateau (one).

It also said that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre activated at Level 2, had continued to cordinate the national response activities.

Meanwhile, the country registered 266,492 COVID-19 confirmed cases, 3,155 deaths, and 259,858 cases had been discharged across 36 states including the FCT.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) said, “If you are yet to be vaccinated, visit the nearest vaccination site to receive your Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine. All COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe and effective.”

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Panic spreads as China records 60,000 fresh COVID deaths in 34 days

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China says almost 60,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 were recorded between December 08, 2022 and January 12, 2023 in the country.

A major wave of the virus surfaced in China after President Xi Jinping abruptly lifted zero-Covid policy restrictions last month, UK Guardian reports on Saturday.

A report from Peking University said 900 million Chinese people are already infected with the virus.

It also said some major cities had experienced infection rates of between 70% and 90% of their populations since then.

The surge in infections has been attributed to the Chinese government’s emphasis on shielding the 1.4 billion people that make up its population rather than inoculating them effectively against the Covid-19 virus.

However, authorities have announced the fatalities resulting from the wave was 59,938.

The head of the Bureau of Medical Administration, Jiao Yahui, on Saturday announced there had in fact been 59,938 Covid deaths between December 8 and January 12.

This figure included about 5,500 individuals who died of respiratory failure, while the rest also had underlying health conditions. The average age of those who died was 80, Jiao said, with 90.1% aged 65 and above.

The holidays in China officially start January 21 and involve the world’s largest annual migration of people.

Some two billion trips are expected to be made and tens of millions of people have started to travel – although they have been urged not to visit their elderly relatives, in order to prevent them from becoming infected.

Jiao claimed case rates were declining and the peak had passed in most areas. She said the daily number of people going to fever clinics peaked at 2.9 million on 23 December and had fallen by 83% to 477,000 on Thursday.

“These data show the national emergency peak has passed,” she said.

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