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5 cases of Omicron variant confirmed in New York state: governor

纽约州长:纽约发现5例奥密克戎确诊病例

2021-12-03 浏览


The state of New York has confirmed five cases of the coronavirus Omicron variant, Governor Kathy Hochul said on Thursday, bringing the total number of US detections of the new strain to eight.

"New York State has confirmed five cases of the omicron variant," Hochul said in a Twitter post aimed at reassuring residents of the nation's fourth most populous state that the detections were not unexpected.

"Let me be clear: This is not cause for alarm. We knew this variant was coming and we have the tools to stop the spread," she said.

"Get your vaccine. Get your booster. Wear your mask."

It was not immediately clear whether the new cases were in or near New York City – the country's most populous metropolitan area – and whether they were detected in people who had recently returned from traveling outside the country.

Eight cases have so far been confirmed in the United States, with at least one, in Minnesota, involving a person with no recent international travel history, signaling the strain is already circulating inside the country.

Hochul's figures followed the announcement by President Joe Biden that he is bolstering his administration's campaign against COVID-19 as the winter takes hold.

The new measures include requiring all inbound international travelers be tested within one day of flying, and an extension of mask mandates on public transportation through mid-March.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



Universal Beijing Resort plans expansion

北京环球影城计划扩建

2021-12-02 浏览


The Universal Beijing Resort is planning its second phase of construction, according to a press briefing on Wednesday.

The expansion will cover 2.2 square kilometers, and five more hotels are expected to be built. The annual number of visits to the existing resort, which covers 1.8 square kilometers, is estimated to reach 10 million, municipal government official Cui Shuqiang said at the press briefing.

The resort has boosted tourism in the neighboring areas of Beijing's Tongzhou District, where the Beijing Municipal Administrative Center and the resort are located, Cui said.

The Universal Beijing Resort began formal operations in September and became the fifth Universal Studios theme park globally, the third in Asia, and the first in China.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



Canada finds first cases of COVID-19 in wildlife

加拿大发现首个野生动物中的新冠病例

2021-12-02 浏览


Canada has found the first cases of COVID-19 in three white-tailed deer, according to the Environment and Climate Change Canada on Wednesday.

On Monday, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the first detections of SARS-CoV-2 in three free-ranging white-tailed deer in Canada.

These deer were sampled between November 6 to 8 this year, in the Estrie region of Quebec. Samples for SARS-CoV-2 were collected through a big-game registration station in southern Quebec. Similar to findings in the United States, the deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were all apparently healthy. The World Organization for Animal Health was notified on Wednesday.

"As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited," said the Environment and Climate Change Canada said in a press release.

This finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface, said the press release.

The Environment and Climate Change Canada calls for added precaution like wearing a well-fitted mask when exposed to "respiratory tissues and fluids from deer."

The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.

"Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time," the press release added.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



Omicron in Europe before South Africa reported first cases

奥密克戎在南非发现首例病例时已在欧洲出现

2021-12-01 浏览


The Omicron coronavirus variant was present in Europe before the first cases were reported in South Africa, new data from the Netherlands showed Tuesday, as Latin America reported its first two cases in Brazil.

In the week since the new virus strain was reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa, dozens of countries around the world have responded with travel restrictions – most targeting southern African nations.

But the World Health Organization warned Tuesday – as Canada expanded its restrictions to also include Egypt and Nigeria – that "blanket" travel bans risked doing more harm than good.

And the likely futility of broad travel restrictions was underscored as Dutch authorities reported that Omicron was present in the country before South Africa officially reported its first cases, on November 25.

The new variant – whose high number of mutations the WHO believes may make it more transmissible or resistant to vaccines – was found in two Dutch test samples from November 19 and 23, with one having no travel history.

With countries now on alert for the Omicron variant, a clearer picture is emerging by the day of where it has been circulating, and for how long.

So far, well over a dozen countries and territories have detected cases, including Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel, Italy and Portugal.

Among European countries, Belgium and Germany have both reported cases of the new strain prior to November 25, but both linked to foreign travel.

Latin America reported its first two cases Tuesday – in people who traveled from South Africa to Brazil – and a first case was confirmed in Japan, one day after it barred all foreign arrivals.

Vaccine-resistant?

While much is still unknown about the Omicron variant – it could take weeks to determine whether and to what extent it is vaccine-resistant – it has highlighted that the global fight against COVID-19 is far from over.

Asian, European and US markets all fell on Tuesday, while the benchmark US oil price tumbled more than five percent after the boss of vaccine manufacturer Moderna warned existing jabs might be less effective against the new variant.

"All the scientists I've talked to ... are like 'this is not going to be good'," Moderna boss Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times, warning against a "material drop" in the effectiveness of current jabs against Omicron.

Moderna, US drugmaker Pfizer and the backers of Russian vaccine Sputnik V are already working on an Omicron-specific vaccine.

On the treatment front, meanwhile, a panel of US health experts voted Tuesday to endorse Merck's COVID pill for high-risk adult patients, which is already authorised in Britain.

'Heavy burden'

In a briefing to WHO member states, the body's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was understandable for countries to seek to protect their citizens "against a variant we don't yet fully understand."

But he called for the global response to be "calm, coordinated and coherent", urging nations to "take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures."

The UN agency cautioned in a travel advisery that "blanket" travel bans risked placing a "heavy burden on lives and livelihoods" and could ultimately dissuade countries from sharing data about the evolving virus – as South Africa did in reporting the latest variant.

But it did advise that people not fully vaccinated and considered vulnerable to COVID-19, including over-60s, should put off travel to areas with community transmission of the virus – after correcting a previous statement that indicated all over-60s should defer travel.

Tougher measures

Omicron has emerged as much of the world was already bracing for a new winter wave of the pandemic – leaving even nations with high vaccination rates scrambling to stem infections and prevent health services from being overwhelmed.

Governments, particularly in western Europe, have already reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing, social-distancing measures, curfews or lockdowns – leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.

In Germany, incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz said parliament would vote on making COVID vaccines compulsory by the end of the year – and a source from Scholz's party told AFP he had "signalled his sympathy" for such a rule.

Greece went ahead Tuesday in making vaccines compulsory for over-60s, while Norway will offer booster shots to all adults before Easter, as preferable to a lockdown.

Britain meanwhile set a target of delivering third jabs to all adults within two months, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying vaccination centers would be "popping up like Christmas trees."
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



Chinese mainland reports 91 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases

中国大陆今日报告91例本土确诊病例

2021-12-01 浏览


The Chinese mainland on Tuesday reported 91 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, all in Inner Mongolia, the National Health Commission said in its daily report on Wednesday.

Also reported were 22 new imported cases in six provincial-level regions, according to the commission.

No new suspected cases or new deaths related to COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday, it added.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland had reached 98,824 by Tuesday, including 868 patients still receiving treatment, of whom eight were in severe condition.

A total of 93,320 patients had been discharged from hospitals on the mainland, and 4,636 had died as a result of the virus.

A total of 14 asymptomatic cases were newly reported Tuesday, of whom 12 were from outside the mainland.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



China's pandemic response tactics still effective for Omicron: experts

专家称:中国流行疾病应急策略对“奥密克戎”仍然有效

2021-11-30 浏览


China's tactics for preventing COVID-19 case import and domestic resurgence of COVID-19 remain effective for the Omicron variant of the virus, medical experts said on Monday.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has established a special nucleic acid testing method targeting the new variant and continues to monitor the genome sequence of potential imported infections, they told a press conference held by the National Health Commission on Monday.

Faced with the new variant, experts also called on members of the public, including those who are fully vaccinated, to wear face masks in public venues and during transit, implement self-monitoring of their health, and reduce non-essential inbound and outbound travel.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey quits company

推特创始人杰克·多西退出公司

2021-11-30 浏览


Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Monday he was leaving the company, after steering the social network during the tumult of Donald Trump's presidency and surviving an activist investor's ouster bid in 2020.

Dorsey, who is also chief executive of payments company Square, was confronted during his tenure by thorny freedom of speech questions, challenges to making the platform profitable and criticism he had spread himself too thin.

With his recognizable look of a shaved head, long beard and unconventional style, Dorsey for years embodied Twitter.

"I want you all to know that this was my decision and I own it. It was a tough one for me, of course," he wrote in an e-mail to Twitter staff announcing his resignation as CEO, which was effective immediately.

"There aren't many companies that get to this level. And there aren't many founders that choose their company over their own ego," he added.

The company said Twitter's Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal has replaced Dorsey in the top post, with Dorsey saying he would remain a member of the board until around May to help with the transition.

"And after that... I'll leave the board," Dorsey wrote. "Why not stay or become chair? I believe it's really important to allow Parag the space he needs to lead."

Nasdaq briefly suspended trading of Twitter on Monday, citing "news pending," and after some volatility, the price was down over 2.5 percent for the day.

Trump era

Like many Silicon Valley celebrities, from Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs to Bill Gates or Michael Dell, Dorsey dropped out of college, never graduating from either of the universities he attended, one in his native Missouri and the other in New York.

Dorsey is credited with coming up with the idea for Twitter when eventual co-founder Evan Williams gave workers at blogging startup Odeo two weeks to work on new projects as a way to break up the daily routine.

He ran Twitter from 2007 to 2008 and returned later as CEO after Dick Costolo resigned in June 2015.

With Dorsey at the helm, Twitter reported its first profitable quarter for the last three months of 2017, and then two full years in the green, before slipping back into the red in 2020.

Twitter in March 2020 made a deal with key investors to end an effort to oust the chief, creating a new committee on the board of directors to keep tabs on company leadership.

Dorsey came under pressure in 2020 from Elliott Management amid concerns he had spread himself too thin by running both Twitter and Square.

During Trump's presidency, which ended in January this year, Twitter was widely seen as the medium used to broadcast America's deepening political and cultural rifts.

Dorsey took the controversial decision to permanently ban Trump from the platform, where the former president had amassed 88.7 million followers.

Dorsey made the decision days after Trump whipped up a mob of supporters who stormed the US Capitol, where they tried to prevent Joe Biden being confirmed winner of the 2020 election.

New CEO

Twitter's incoming CEO Agrawal joined the company in 2011 and has served as chief technology officer since October 2017, where he was responsible for the network's technical strategy.

Dorsey cited Agrawal's understanding of the company as key to his decision to step down.

"There's a lot of talk about the importance of a company being 'founder led.' Ultimately, I believe that's severely limiting and a single point of failure," Dorsey wrote to Twitter staff.

Agrawal holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.

"We recently updated our strategy to hit ambitious goals, and I believe that strategy to be bold and right," he wrote in his own message to staff.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



WHO special session seeking 'pandemic treaty' amid Omicron concerns

世卫组织将召开针对“奥密克戎”紧急会议

2021-11-30 浏览


A special session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) kicked off on Monday amid growing concerns over the latest Omicron coronavirus variant, where the participants aim to negotiate a new "pandemic treaty."

Legally binding pandemic treaty

The WHA May session this year decided to set up a working group to consider the findings and recommendations of a number of panels and committees on global preparedness for and response to COVID-19 before starting their discussions on Monday on the potential new "legally binding agreement between nations."

"COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in the global architecture for pandemic preparedness and response," said World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the opening of the special session.

"The best way we can address them is with a legally binding agreement between nations, an accord forged from the recognition that we have no future but a common future," he said.

According to Tedros, the new "pandemic treaty" is expected to address COVID-19 as "a crisis of solidarity and sharing."

"The lack of sharing of PPE (personal protective equipment), tests, vaccines, technology, know-how, intellectual property and other tools hindered our collective ability to prevent infections and save lives," he said, noting the lack of a consistent and coherent global approach has resulted in "a splintered and disjointed response, breeding misunderstanding, misinformation and mistrust."

Get prepared for Omicron

The WHA special session coincides with the emergence of the highly mutated Omicron virus variant, which was designated by the WHO as a "variant of concern" (VOC) just three days ago.

Though the WHO has said it is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe disease than the other known variants, including Delta, concerns over its impact on the efficacy of existing vaccines and treatments have been growing.

A number of countries have already introduced entry bans on travelers from South Africa, where Omicron was first confirmed on November 9 and has been identified in multiple European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Sweden.

Sweden's Public Health Agency on Monday confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant, found when a traveler who last week returned to Sweden from South Africa was tested.

Portugal's National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge (INSA) on Monday confirmed 13 cases of the Omicron variant in Portugal among players and staff members of the football club Belenenses SAD.

The INSA said that the samples were collected and analyzed on Sunday, and that one of the players who tested positive had recently returned to the country from South Africa.

In Germany, the COVID-19 seven-day incidence rate climbed to a new all-time high of 452.4, up from 386.5 a week ago, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases announced on Monday.

German virologist Christian Drosten told the broadcaster ZDF on Sunday that he was "quite concerned at the moment. I am surprised to see so many mutations in the virus."

In Cyprus, new anti-coronavirus measures relating to young school children came into force on Monday, with most COVID-19 clusters currently being found in schools.

In addition to banning direct arrival from the eight African countries most affected by the Omicron variant, all travelers coming from other destinations will also be tested for the coronavirus at airports, said Michalis Hadipantelas, Cyprus' health minister.

Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Monday that the country's government is set to announce new restrictions to cope with the new variant, including tightened flight rules on seven southern African nations.

"Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics: our current system disincentivizes countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores," said Tedros.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



WHO says not clear weather Omicron more transmissible, causes more severe disease

世卫组织称暂时还不清楚新冠新变种Omicron是否更易传播,会造成重症

2021-11-29 浏览


It is not yet clear whether the Omicron COVID-19 variant is more transmissible, or causes more severe disease compared to other variants including Delta, the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

WHO said it's not yet clear whether Omicron is more easily spread from person to person compared to other variants, even though the number of people testing positive has risen in South Africa where this variant was involved.

It's also not yet clear whether Omicron causes more severe disease, but preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, which however may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected.

WHO confirmed that there is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants, as understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.

All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is currently dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.

However, WHO said preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron, but information is limited. More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks.

It added that current PCR tests continue to detect Omicron, while further studies are still going on to understand how the Omicron variant will impact on available vaccines and treatments to COVID-19.

WHO classified on Friday the latest variant B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2 virus, now with the name Omicron, as a "Variant of Concern" (VOC).

According to WHO's definition, a VOC, with a degree of global public health significance, demonstrates one or more of mutational changes, such as increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation, and decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.

WHO has since called on countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing on circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, submit complete genome sequences and metadata to a publicly available database, and report initial VOC cases or clusters to WHO.

It has also recommended field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, the effectiveness of public health and social measures and antibody neutralization.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



South Africa detects new COVID-19 variant with many mutations

南非发现新冠新变种

2021-11-26 浏览


Scientists in South Africa said on Thursday they had detected a new COVID-19 variant with a large number of mutations, blaming it for a surge in infection numbers.

The number of daily infections in Africa's hardest-hit country has increased tenfold since the start of the month.

In response, Britain banned all travel from the country and five other southern African nations as concerns grow about the new variant, which scientists say could be more infectious than Delta and more resistant to current vaccines.

"Unfortunately we have detected a new variant, which is a reason for concern in South Africa," virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a hastily called news conference.

The variant, which goes by the scientific label B.1.1.529, "has a very high number of mutations," he said, adding that the World Health Organization may give it a Greek variant name – like the dominant Delta strain – on Friday.

"It's unfortunately causing a resurgence of infections," he said.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travelers from South Africa, de Oliveira added.

The WHO said it is "closely monitoring" the reported variant and is expected to meet on Friday to determine if it should be designated a variant of "interest" or of "concern."

"Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study," the WHO added.

'A major threat'

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was of "serious concern" and behind an "exponential" increase in reported cases, making it "a major threat."

The country's daily number of infections hit 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier in the month.

Before the detection of the new variant, authorities had predicted a fourth wave to hit South Africa starting around the middle of December, buoyed by travel ahead of the festive season.

The government-run National Institute for Communicable Diseases said 22 positive cases of the new variant have been recorded in the country.

The NICD said the number of detected cases and the percentage testing positive are "increasing quickly" in three of the country's provinces including Gauteng, home to the economic hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.

A cluster outbreak was recently identified, concentrated at a higher education institute in Pretoria, the NICD added.

Last year, the Beta variant of the virus first emerged in South Africa, although until now its infection numbers have been driven by Delta, which was originally detected in India.

South Africa has the highest pandemic numbers in Africa with around 2.95 million cases, of which 89,657 have been fatal.

10 mutations

Scientists said the new variant has at least 10 mutations, compared with two for Delta and three for Beta.

"The concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, said at a virtual press briefing.

"It will take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has on any potential vaccines," she added.

Neutralizing the variant is "complicated by the number of mutations this variant" contains, said one of the South African scientists Penny Moore.

"This variant contains many mutations that we are not familiar with," she added.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it will soon meet South African experts to discuss the variant.

"There are so many variants out there but some of them are of no consequence on the trajectory of the epidemic," Africa CDC head John Nkengasong told a news conference on Thursday.
 
来源: Shanghai Daily  



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