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The Tokyo 2020 Games start in 66 days, but a major Japanese doctors’ group is calling for the already delayed event to be canceled over fears that the country’s health-care system cannot accommodate the potential medical needs of thousands of international athletes, coaches and media amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the country.
“We strongly request that the authorities convince the [International Olympic Committee] that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games,” said the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association.
Tokyo hospitals “have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity,” the association of roughly 6,000 primary care physicians added. It is at least the second group of Japanese doctors to ask that the Olympics and Paralympics be canceled.
Will transit riders return after the pandemic changes to the workday?
Public transit demand during the pandemic has shifted to neighborhoods with high numbers of Black, Hispanic and lower-income workers, flattening peak travel periods and forcing transit agencies to respond to new patterns before more workers return to offices this fall, a Washington Post analysis of national transit data shows.
No longer does the 9-to-5 work schedule hold as much sway, with telework on the rise and office workers less bound to rigid daily commutes. Waves of commuters have dwindled to a trickle in the morning and evening hours — the commuting tides that transit schedules were built around.
Transit agencies are watching the emerging trends as they seek to lure riders after Labor Day, when offices are calling back workers who will decide whether to stick with early 2020 commuting habits or find new ways to get to work.
It could take a decade to vaccinate Venezuela if slow rollout continues, experts warn
It could take at least 10 years for Venezuela to fully vaccinate its population against the coronavirus, the president of the nation’s Academy of Medicine warned Monday amid a slow inoculation campaign in which less than 1 percent of some 30 million inhabitants have received their first dose of vaccine, Reuters reported.
Without a fast-moving and “effective” distribution campaign, it could take at least a decade for residents to be protected from the virus, Enrique López-Loyo said, adding that the country also had a low testing rate that only added to its struggles to curb transmission.
Venezuela has struggled to contain the coronavirus outbreak, with underfunded and undersupplied public hospitals running out of beds, crucial medicines and oxygen concentrators. To date, there have been more than 216,000 confirmed cases of infection in the country.
Officials say they have received 1.4 million coronavirus vaccines from China and Russia but have in the past blamed U.S. sanctions for blocking further investments. President Nicolás Maduro has long been accused of politicizing foreign assistance efforts for food and medicine.
Speaking to the country earlier this year, Maduro hailed “Carvativir” — an herbal remedy and cooking ingredient derived from thyme — which he said could be taken orally to help ward off coronavirus symptoms. Doctors in the country criticized the leader’s claims that the miracle drops were effective, saying his remarks were “false” and “dangerous.”
D.C. lifts mask mandate Monday for fully vaccinated people
D.C.’s broad mask order, which has required residents for months to wear masks almost every time they leave their houses, will no longer apply to fully vaccinated people, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Monday.
Vaccinated or not, all residents still must wear masks on public transit, in schools (even outdoors on the playground), in medical offices and hospitals, and inside any business that chooses to require masks.
But Bowser’s order Monday means people who have waited two weeks past their final dose of coronavirus vaccine now have the ability to exercise, socialize, shop and worship maskless for the first time in months.
“Take a mask with you when you leave your home, then also respect signs at the places you are visiting,” Bowser said. “If a business posts a sign indicating that masks are required, then you must follow their request . . . or they could deny you entry.”
At the overcrowded U.K. border, snaking lines and ‘terrified’ passengers
LONDON — Nonessential international travel resumed in England on Monday, with passengers allowed to head to countries deemed safe by the government based on transmission risk. But for the thousands at London’s Heathrow Airport, a day that was widely hailed as one of freedom soon became one of anxiety and confusion amid lengthy queues, staff shortages and an apparent lack of social distancing.
British media branded the easing of travel restrictions in England as “chaos,” while travelers said they were being forced to mix with those arriving from red-list countries such as India where cases of infection remain high. One passenger told British media that they were “terrified” of contracting coronavirus because of the questionable health and safety measures at the airport.
“I can’t help but feel we are in a bit of a Petri dish for mutations, surely they can make this more efficient,” tweeted one traveler who had landed in London from a work trip in Vienna.
Another passenger, Steve Myall, who had landed in England from the United States, took to Twitter to say that he had been asked to sit next to a family who had just landed from a red-list country.
“Of the 35 Border Force desks less than 10 are staffed,” Myall wrote, adding that it took almost two hours for him to make it through border control and that officials had told him efforts to fast-track families with young children were “on hold.”
Speaking on ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” television show Monday, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye acknowledged that the airport had seen delays of up to six hours even before the travel ban was partially lifted, but said it was the responsibility of Border Force to take the necessary steps to reduce overcrowding.
Border Force plans to bring on more staff and provide automated testing checks in a bid to deal with growing passenger demand as restrictions continue to ease, Holland-Kaye said.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the airport said Border Force was facing delays because of the government’s stringent coronavirus entry requirements.
India set to continue freeze on most coronavirus vaccine exports until October, report says
India will not resume large-scale exports of coronavirus vaccines until at least October, or four months later than a major domestic vaccine maker had envisioned, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing three anonymous government officials.
The South Asian country, which is one of the world’s largest exporters of medical drugs, is grappling with a pandemic wave that claimed a record 4,329 deaths in the past 24 hours. As of Tuesday, India has reported over 25.2 million coronavirus cases and 278,000 deaths.
A spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs said he had no information on the timeline for resuming vaccine exports. At the end of April, India’s foreign secretary told reporters that the country’s need was “very, very pressing” and whatever vaccines the country produced would be put to domestic use “for the time being.”
New Delhi began curtailing exports of coronavirus vaccines in late March, when new infections started rising exponentially. India has exported over 66 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, many of which were distributed to its South and Southeast Asian neighbors, government data show.
The country has an agreement with Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to distribute vaccine doses equitably, to supply 1.1 billion vaccine doses.
The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, had previously said it hoped to resume exports in June, the Associated Press reported. It is now prioritizing making vaccines for domestic use.
Covax has delivered 65 million doses to 124 countries, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, told reporters on Monday — less than half of what it had originally promised.
“We need high-income countries that have contracted much of the immediate global supply of vaccines to share them now,” he said, adding that he hoped that the Serum Institute would resume deliveries to Covax once the country got the latest outbreak under control.
The Reuters report on India’s export plans came shortly after President Biden said that the United States would share at least 20 million doses of U.S.-authorized vaccines with other countries by the end of June.
Joanna Slater in New Delhi contributed to this report.
Gaza’s only coronavirus laboratory partially destroyed by Israeli airstrike
The only coronavirus testing laboratory in Gaza was partially destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Monday amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas.
The Al-Rimal clinic in Gaza City had been used to test residents for the coronavirus. Cases of infection in the territory, which is home to more than 2 million people, reached record highs last month.
The strike Monday damaged the main Gaza Health Ministry building, as well as the adjacent emergency services clinic, officials said.
Speaking in front of the rubble on Monday, Yousef Abu al-Rish of the Gaza Ministry of Health said that because the al-Rimal clinic had been hit, it could no longer deliver its services, vaccinations for the elderly and emergency care for pregnant women.
Before the unrest, the clinic had been testing on average 1,600 people each day, local media reported, as human rights groups noted that medical supplies and crucial equipment was already scarce in Gaza.
On Sunday, it was reported that Ayman Abu al-Ouf, one of Gaza’s top medical officials leading the response to the pandemic had been killed in an Israeli airstrike along with Mouin al-Aloul, Gaza’s top neurologist.
A spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health said Abu al-Ouf’s death would “undoubtedly affect the internal medicine department” and would “have an impact on the treatment of patients in the Gaza Strip.”
While Gaza has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in the world, efforts to vaccinate residents and treat patients have waned in recent days as overburdened hospitals and health-care staff pivot to treating those caught in a conflict that has claimed at least 212 Palestinian lives in Gaza.
Last week, aid agencies warned that the fighting was likely to trigger fresh outbreaks of the disease amid the chaos of war and widespread poverty in the territory that has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade since 2007.
U.S. and Australian scientists develop experimental covid-19 treatment that shows promise in mice
SYDNEY — A team of American and Australian scientists have developed an experimental antiviral treatment for covid-19 that has shown promise in early studies on mice.
While a number of vaccines have been developed to give people protection against contracting the coronavirus, there is no antiviral treatment created specifically for covid-19 that works once people have become infected.
Traditional antivirals such as remdesivir, originally invented as a hepatitis C drug and tested against Ebola, have shortened hospital stays, according to clinical trial findings, but do not significantly prevent covid-19 deaths.
Researchers from the Menzies Health Institute Queensland at Griffith University and U.S. research institute City of Hope have developed a potential new approach that uses gene-silencing RNA technology to destroy the virus genome directly and stops the virus from replicating.
“These stealth nanoparticles can be delivered to a wide range of lung cells and silence viral genes,” said Griffith University professor Nigel McMillan, one of the study’s lead researchers.
The breakthrough treatment still needs to undergo clinical trials. Early trials in mice showed it reduced the viral load by 99.9 percent.
The study was published in the journal Molecular Therapy recently amid increasing debate in Australia about when it would be safe to reopen the country’s international borders.
Australia closed its doors to most international travelers more than a year ago as the pandemic worsened. It also banned its citizens from leaving without permission.
Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, said Monday that at least 5 million people in the state must be fully vaccinated before conversations about opening the border can begin. So far, the rollout has been slow, with nearly 930,000 doses administered in the state, and some 3.2 million doses nationally in a population of nearly 26 million.
Japanese doctors call for Olympics cancellation as Tokyo struggles to contain covid
A major Japanese physicians’ group has joined the chorus of voices calling on Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee to cancel the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Games.
The appeal, made in a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that was released this week, comes amid concerns that the health-care system in Asia’s second-largest economy cannot accommodate both the potential medical needs of thousands of international athletes, coaches and media while fighting yet another spike in coronavirus infections.
The Japanese capital on Tuesday reported 732 new coronavirus infections and 19 of Japan’s 47 prefectures are operating under a state of emergency to combat the pandemic.
“We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games,” said the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association.
Tokyo hospitals “have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity,” the association of roughly 6,000 primary care physicians added.
The association is at least the second doctor’s group in recent weeks to call for the cancellation of the Olympics. It comes amid signs that Japanese public opinion has turned sharply against hosting the already-delayed Games this summer; one petition calling for the event’s cancellation has amassed over 370,000 signatures.
A poll released on Monday by the Asahi Shimbun indicated that just 14 percent of Japanese residents want the Games, which are set to kick off on July 23, to start as scheduled this summer.
Suga, the prime minister, has insisted that a “safe and secure” Olympics can be carried out. Only a single-digit percentage of the country’s seniors were vaccinated with at least one dose as of Sunday, one of the lowest rates in an advanced economy, the Nikkei has reported.
India reports highest daily pandemic death toll as experts warn of rural surge
India on Tuesday registered a record 4,329 covid-related deaths in the previous 24-hour period as the country continues to grapple with an infectious new variant that has spread across Asia.
The Health Ministry also said there were 263,533 new coronavirus infections, the second-consecutive day that the figure was below 300,000, amid hopes the surge could be slackening.
“I want to warn you about corona. The infection is spreading fast in villages,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on a video conference call last week, adding that his government was undertaking measures to fight the pandemic in rural areas.
Rural Indians, who make up the majority of the country’s population, have poorer access to health care than their urban counterparts. About 75 percent of residents in Basi, a village of about 5,400 roughly 25 miles outside New Delhi, are sick with the virus, reported Bloomberg News. There were no doctors or oxygen canisters in Basi, Bloomberg reported, and most villagers did not know how to crowdsource social media for help.
“The government has made no arrangements. They have left us at the mercy of God,” Rakesh Sisodiya who lives in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, told The Washington Post. “Where should people go?”
“The absolute numbers actually don’t mean anything when they are taken just by themselves; they have to be taken in the context of how much testing is done, and test positivity rate,” Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, told The Hindu newspaper recently. “One could end up with a very long plateau at a very high level of cases.”
As of Tuesday, India has registered over 25.2 million coronavirus infections and over 278,000 deaths.
Vacation and a vaccine? Some tourist sites are offering shots to visitors.
Hoping to add one more incentive for travelers to visit — and join the ranks of the fully vaccinated — some tourist sites are offering coronavirus vaccines to visitors.
In the United States, 47 percent of adults were fully vaccinated as of Monday, with nearly 60 percent getting at least one shot so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency announced new guidelines for fully vaccinated people last week, saying they no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in many circumstances.
Even as many countries struggle due to a lack of vaccine supply, some U.S. states and businesses have gotten creative with their efforts to encourage more residents to get vaccinated, offering everything from free doughnuts, beers or fries — to an entry in a $1 million lottery. Over the weekend, the Talladega Superspeedway let people who got tested or vaccinated take two laps around the track in a “race to end covid.”
Cyclone Tauktae strikes India’s west coast, disrupting crucial battle against coronavirus
NEW DELHI — A powerful cyclone struck India’s west coast Monday, forcing officials to move hospitalized coronavirus patients and suspend vaccination campaigns as the storm disrupted nationwide efforts to contain a surge of infections in the country of 1.3 billion.
But by late Monday night, despite heavy physical damage in many seaside areas, no significant loss of life had been reported, and extensive advance measures had been put in place to protect hospitalized patients and oxygen supplies. Officials in Goa state confirmed two deaths, and there were unconfirmed reports of up to 10 additional related fatalities.
Cyclone Tauktae, named for the harmless gecko lizard, pummeled coastal stretches along hundreds of miles, with driving rains and winds up to 90 miles per hour. Around 9 p.m., Tauktae made landfall in Gujarat state farther up the coast. Officials in Gujarat said it was the most severe they had experienced since 1998.
Washington football rookie minicamp encourages vaccinations
In the latest step toward normalcy, most Washington Football Team players, coaches and executives did not have to wear masks Saturday morning for the end of the team’s rookie minicamp. The NFL was one of the many governing bodies to lift mask mandates for vaccinated individuals this week, and under a sunny, blue sky in Ashburn, it was easy to focus on the football matters that were swept aside by the coronavirus pandemic.
At the minicamp, Coach Ron Rivera spoke about the addition of left tackle Charles Leno and safety Bobby McCain, his excitement for the team’s wide receiver competition this fall, the depth of the offensive line and the development of tight end Sammis Reyes.
On Saturday, Rivera continued to advocate for health care by urging everyone to take the coronavirus vaccine. Before Saturday’s practice, he said he believes it to be no different from vaccines for diseases such as polio, chickenpox and smallpox.
CDC’s No. 2 official to retire this summer in second high-profile exit
The CDC’s No. 2 official plans to retire this summer, marking the second high-profile departure this month as the Biden administration seeks to rebuild trust in the battered agency.
Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told senior agency leaders Monday that she plans to retire after 33 years at the agency. Schuchat, who has been principal deputy director to four CDC directors and served as acting director several times, has played an integral role in the agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and other high-profile public health emergencies.
Schuchat categorically denied reports of tensions with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, saying in an exchange of text messages: “Whoever told you that has no idea of the close relationship we have. She is a wonderful leader, colleague and now friend. I cannot even imagine having tensions with her!”
Published at Tue, 18 May 2021 12:05:58 +0000-Covid-19 live updates: Japanese doctors call for Olympics cancellation amid covid-19 surge