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Panic as France detects new COVID-19 variant, IHU, more infectious than Omicron

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A new COVID-19 variant — B.1.640.2 — detected in 12 patients near Marseille, France, containing 46 mutations, is causing panic among people across the world.

This is coming even as the world battles the uptick in COVID-19 cases owing to the Omicron variant.

The discovery of the new variant, dubbed B.1.640.2, by scientists in France, was announced in a paper posted on medRxiv.

Called IHU, as of now, the strain was discovered by academics based at the IHU Mediterranee Infection on 10 December.

Researchers say that it contains 46 mutations — even more than Omicron — which makes it more resistant to vaccines and infectious.

Some 12 cases have been spotted so far near Marseille, with the first linked to travel to the African country Cameroon.

Tests show the strain carries the N501Y mutation — first seen on the Alpha variant — that experts believe can make it more transmissible.

According to the scientists, it also carries the E484K mutation, which could mean that the IHU variant will be more resistant to vaccines.

It is yet to be spotted in other countries or labelled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization.

Currently, Omicron is the dominant coronavirus variant in France, joining other European countries like the United Kingdom and Portugal with surging case numbers over the past few days.

France’s public health agency had recently said that “62.4 per cent of tests showed a profile compatible with the Omicron variant”.

The Omicron variant of coronavirus has stoked average daily confirmed cases to more than 160,000 per day over the past week, with peaks above 200,000.

The tidal wave has indeed arrived, it’s enormous, but we will not give in to panic,” France Health Minister Olivier Veran was quoted as telling Parliament.

In an attempt to battle this surge, French MPs have proposed legislation that would require most people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter public spaces such as bars, restaurants and long-distance public transport.

It is expected to come into force on 15 January after passing through the upper house Senate.

News agency AFP reported that the bill’s headline measure is aimed at getting France’s remaining five million unvaccinated people over 12 to accept a shot.

At present a health pass is required to access numerous everyday venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms, leisure centres and long distance train travel – but a recent negative test is accepted for the health pass.

The bill aims to replace the health pass with a vaccine pass – which would only allow people who are fully vaccinated to gain access to those venues.

COVID-19

COVID-19 infections rise by 231.5% in one month

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COVID-19 infections have reportedly risen by 231.5 per cent within one month in the country.

Epidemiological data obtained from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control showed that from May 28 to June 29, a total of 1,262 cases were reported.

But from June 30 to August 1, the cases took a new surge as 4,183 cases were reported, indicating an increase of 2,921 (231.5 per cent).

The country now has 261,473 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 3,147 deaths. The total recoveries in the country have now increased to 254,953.

The NCDC confirmed in its latest biweekly epidemiological report that in the last 10 weeks, the test positivity ratio had continued to increase with the majority of cases reported from Lagos, FCT, Rivers, and Kano states.

The NCDC, however, noted that there was a drop in the testing rate as reports for weeks 27 and 28 showed that the number of samples tested decreased to 24,411 from 35,063 reported in weeks 25 and 26.

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Meanwhile, only 27,528,710 Nigerians representing 24.6 per cent of the total eligible population targeted for COVID-19 vaccination have been fully vaccinated, while 11,768,202 have been partially vaccinated representing only 10.5 percent of the total eligible population, according to official data by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency.

The NCDC Director-General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, told our correspondent that the agency’s surveillance system continued to record a gradual increase in COVID-19 cases across the country.

“This is a reminder of the prevailing risk we face and the need for continued adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as the use of face masks in closed gatherings, physical distancing, and regular hand washing.

“These should be done in addition to taking the vaccines which have been proven to be safe and effective in reducing the risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” he said.

 Yellow fever cases

Similarly, the NCDC has reported a total of 1,005 suspected cases of yellow fever from 36 states, including the FCT in 390 local government areas.

The cases were reported from January 1, 2022, to June 30, 2022.

According to the situation report, Borno State is leading with 88 cases, followed by Anambra State with 75 cases.

Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients.

Symptoms of yellow fever include fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

A small proportion of patients who contract the virus develop severe symptoms and approximately half of those die within 7 to 10 days.

The report read in part, “The cases were reported from the following states: Abia (28), Adamawa (18), Akwa Ibom(8), Anambra (75), Bauchi (34), Bayelsa (13), Benue (15), Borno (88), Cross River (20), Delta(5), Ebonyi (25), Edo (11), Ekiti (18), Enugu (43), FCT (5), Gombe (14), Imo (38), Jigawa(71), Kaduna (8), Kano (4), Katsina (67), Kebbi (21), Kogi (12), Kwara (21), Lagos(4), Nasarawa(23), Niger (25), Ogun (22), Ondo (55), Osun (18), Oyo (60), Plateau (34), Rivers(22), Sokoto(16), Taraba (27), Yobe (24), Zamfara (13).

“Total of six presumptive positive and four inconclusive results were recorded from the Nigeria Laboratory network.

“These presumptive positives were from UBTH Benin (2), MDH Abuja (1), CPHL Lagos (2), and YDMH (1). The cases were reported from Edo -1 (Egor); Niger -1 (Suleja); Rivers-1 (Port-Harcourt); Sokoto-1 (Dange-shuni); Osun-1 (Atakunmosa East); Ondo-1 (Akure South). The inconclusive cases were reported from Oyo -1 (Olorunsogo); Anambra-2 (Idemili South & Ayamelum) and Imo -1 (Nwangele).”

 Expert reacts

Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, the Ondo State Epidemiologist, Dr Stephen Fagbemi, said the discovery of the COVID-19 and yellow fever cases showed that the surveillance system was active and strong.

“We are at the peak of the wet season; so, people will be coming down with the infection. People need to get vaccinated, some people got the first shot and ran away and some have not taken it at all. COVID-19 is still with us and people should keep adhering to the non-pharmaceutical protocols.

“For cases of yellow fever, it could be because some children missed out on vaccination during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic but we will overcome it,” Fagbemi said.

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Joe Biden Tests Positive for COVID-19, Shows Mild Symptoms

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U.S. President Joe Biden

Joe Biden, the oldest person ever to serve as president of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19.
He is experiencing mild symptoms and would continue working but in isolation, the White House disclosed yesterday.
However, Biden yesterday Twitted that he is “doing great” despite testing positive for COVID-19.

“Folks, I’m doing great. Thanks for your concern. Just called Senator Casey, Congressman Cartwright, and Mayor Cognetti (and my Scranton cousins!) to send my regrets for missing our event today,” Biden tweeted on his official @POTUS account on Twitter.
Biden, 79, has a runny nose, fatigue and an occasional dry cough, which he began to experience late Wednesday, White House physician Kevin O’Connor said in a note made public.

Biden has begun taking the antiviral treatment Paxlovid, O’Connor said.
“He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted and experiencing very mild symptoms,” Reuters quoted Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, to have said in a statement.
“Consistent with CDC guidelines, he will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time,” she added, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The White House would provide a daily update on the president’s health, Jean-Pierre said.
Biden’s administration is facing major challenges including soaring inflation and Russia’s land assault on Ukraine. His popularity has dropped sharply over the past year.

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A Reuters/Ipsos survey completed on Tuesday showed 36 per cent of Americans approve of his job performance.
Multiple members of Biden’s administration and other senior figures in Washington had tested positive for the coronavirus in recent months, including Vice President Kamala Harris in April, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
All have since tested negative and resumed working.

U. S. stocks briefly headed lower following reports of the president’s diagnosis, with the S&P 500 (.SPX) dropping about 0.5 per cent over the following 10 minutes. The index quickly retraced that loss and by mid-morning was back to near the unchanged mark on the day.
While many Americans have moved on from the strict precautions of the pandemic’s early months, returning to offices and schools and resuming summer travel, the virus continues to spread.

Cases in the United States are up more than 25 per cent in the last month, according to CDC data, as the rapidly spreading BA.5 sub-variant has taken hold.
Evading the immune protection afforded either by vaccination or prior infection, BA.5 has been the dominant sub-variant in the United States since at least early July and has driven a surge of new infections globally.
Biden is tested regularly for the disease and anyone who meets with him or travels with him is tested beforehand, the White House had said. Biden had last tested negative on Tuesday.

If given within the first five days of infection, the Pfizer Inc. antiviral drug Paxlovid that Biden is taking has been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease by nearly 90 per cent in high risk patients.
But Paxlovid has in some cases been associated with rebound infections, in which patients improve quickly and test negative after a five-day course of the drug, but then days later symptoms return.

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Fear over COVID-19 resurgence as Nigeria records 247 new cases

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There fears that the dreaded coronavirus may be staging a comeback as Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported 247 new cases on Saturday, with Lagos being the worst hit.

The report specifically said Lagos recorded 203 cases, raising the national figures to 256,958 infections since the pandemic started.
The latest is the highest since March 13, when the new confirmed cases surged to 333.
The latest COVID-19 cases were recorded in four states and the federal capital territory (FCT), from June 21 to 24, according to the agency’s update on Saturday.
Lagos was followed by the FCT with 17 cases; Rivers with 14; Cross Rivers with 12 and Kano with one case.
Also, the agency said there is currently 3,637 active case of the virus in the country.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, a total of 250,177 patients have recovered from the virus, with the death toll hitting 3,144 in the country.
Overall, Lagos accounts for the highest tally of coronavirus fatalities in Nigeria with 769 deaths, followed by Edo (321)and the FCT (248).
At 100,125, Lagos also takes the lead in the number of reported cases, followed by the FCT and Rivers with 28,738 and 16,761 respectively.

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