The Latest on COVID-19

Chinese citizens get tested today in a closed community on the 13th day of lockdown in Xi ’an.
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Chinese citizens get tested today in a closed community on the 13th day of lockdown in Xi ’an. Image: Cang Hai / Costfoto/Future Publishing via Getty


New variant: A new SARS-COV-2 variant has been discovered in southeastern France in a person who had recently traveled to Cameroon, according a preprint paper by French scientists. The variant was also identified in 12 people who may have been contacts with the index case, Africa Times reports. The first case was documented in mid-November. Researchers say the variant’s transmissibility and the severity of illness it causes are not yet known.

The case for mild: Illness by caused the Omicron variant may be less severe than other variants’ because it is largely confined to the nose, throat, and windpipe and causes much less damage to the lungs, according to recent studies in mice, hamsters, and human tissues, The New York Times reports.

Another reason for mild: While Omicron can elude antibodies, T-cells can be ready to swoop in and attack the virus and prevent severe disease, according to a new article in the journal Viruses by Hong Kong and Australian researchers. “These results overall would suggest that broad escape from T-cells is very unlikely,” the University of Melbourne’s Matthew McKay told The Guardian.

Move over, Delta: The rapid spread of Omicron may drive out Delta because an Omicron infection may help people avoid future Delta infections, according to a not-yet-peer-reviewed, lab-based study by Africa Health Research Institute scientists, The New York Times reports.

Situation Report

US Omicron surge: COVID-19 hospitalizations have now topped 103,000, reaching 6 figures for the first time since Sept. 11, CNN reports. HHS had reported 71,000 a week ago.
Novavax to the rescue? As the US, Europe, and some countries in Asia are getting more booster shots than expected, global health experts are looking for the Novavax vaccine to help fill a shortfall for low- and middle-income countries this year, Politico reports. With approvals from the WHO and the European commission, Novavax is still awaiting US FDA approval. And it’s questionable whether production in other sites besides Novavax’s production partner, the Serum Institute in India, will meet its goals.
Olympic concerns: China has locked down 1.1 million residents in Yuzhou in Henan province after a COVID-19 outbreak, Reuters reports. The country’s leaders are taking no chances as the Winter Olympics are set to begin in 4+ weeks.
India’s third wave: Cases are increasing sharply from a recent average of 6,000 or so cases per day to 33,750 reported yesterday, Reuters reports. The country vaccinated 3.8 million 15- to 17-year-olds yesterday.
Worrisome uptick in Japan: New daily cases in the country topped 1,000 for the first time since October 6. Health officials reported 1,125 cases earlier today, according to Jiji Press.

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