Thailand says COVID-19 has peaked, but adds restrictions

Thailand says COVID-19 has peaked, but adds restrictions

Health authorities said Thailand’s recent COVID-19 wave has peaked after setting record daily highs of new cases and deaths, but they are still implementing new restrictions starting Saturday to curb the spread of the virus.

The country on Thursday reported 1,871 new cases for 63,570 total, and 10 virus-related deaths for a total of 188. It was the first time the number of new cases has dropped below 2,000 since April 23.

One major change approved Thursday by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration is that people arriving from abroad must spend 14 days in quarantine regardless of where they are coming from or whether they have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Quarantine periods had recently been shortened to 7-10 days from 14 days to help revive the country’s massive tourist industry.

Other new restrictions inside Thailand will be applied depending on how provinces rank on a three-tier system of zones according to their number of new COVID-19 cases.

The new rules will be reviewed after two weeks, said Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the center’s spokesperson.

In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and four other provinces in the worst tier, restaurants are only allowed to provide takeout service and must close by 9 p.m. All gyms, fitness centers and other indoor sports venues must close. No spectators are allowed at sporting competitions and residents are strongly discouraged, though not banned, from traveling outside the zone.


Earlier this week, Bangkok city authorities already ordered the closing of more than 30 types of businesses and services including cinemas, parks, zoos, bars, pools and massage parlors. Gatherings of more than 20 people were banned. Shopping malls and department stores can open with shorter hours.

In middle-tier provinces, restaurants can stay open until 11 p.m. but dining in is only allowed until 9 p.m. In the small number of provinces qualifying for the best tier, restaurants can serve customers inside until 11 p.m., but in all three zones, serving alcohol is not allowed.

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Nick Carter Says 3rd Child Is Home, Doing 'Better' After Birth Complications

Welcome home! Nick Carter announced on Monday, April 26, that he and Lauren Kitt brought their third child home from the hospital.

Stars Who’ve Welcomed Babies in 2021

“OK everyone, I wanted to let you know that finally, we are home safe and sound,” the Backstreet Boys member, 41, tweeted. “Baby is doing so much better. I’m going to share a little picture with you really soon. Thank you again for all your love.”

When the singer’s little one arrived on Wednesday, April 21, he shared an emotional selfie taken at the hospital. “Yes, I’m a believer,” the Face the Music author wrote via Instagram. “I ask God to give us strength to protect mommy and baby.”

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The following day, the New York native updated his fans. “As a parent knows all to [sic] very well, sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan it,” Carter tweeted on Thursday, April 22. “We have been experiencing some minor complications, but things are looking a little better after the first night. I wanted to thank everyone for all the prayers and good thoughts during this time. We will keep you updated.”

By Friday, April 23, the infant’s health seemed “better,” but the Dancing With the Stars alum wrote that they were “not out of the woods yet.” He added, “We have to stay in the hospital one more night. But Daddy and Mommy are watching baby like a Hawk.”

The Grammy nominee and Kitt, 37, shared their pregnancy news in January. “Sometimes life blesses you with little surprises,” the actor wrote alongside an ultrasound video at the time.

Carter, who also shares son Reign, 5, and daughter Saoirse, 18 months, wrote the following month that he couldn’t “believe there [was] another one on the way.”

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The Masked Singer alum has been “getting used to” quarantine parenting amid the coronavirus pandemic, he told Ask Men in June 2020. “Usually, I’m on the go and jumping on a plane, packing up my bags in a different hotel, in a different city every other night. It’s a little bit of an adjustment.”

Carter added at the time: “The greatest thing is just to be in their lives, and to be able to see the first steps and first crawls. Those are the rewarding moments. The little idiosyncrasies and little things that come out of nowhere that my son will say. For me, education is extremely important, and I get an opportunity to help influence them with that.”

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Pfizer CEO says a THIRD Covid vaccine may be needed

BREAKING NEWS: Pfizer CEO says a THIRD Covid vaccine dose will be needed as soon as six months after someone receives two shots – and then be vaccinated annually

  • Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said it is ‘likely’ people will need a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • The potential booster shot will be given within 12 months of someone being fully vaccinated
  • Bourla said it is possible that people will need to be immunized against the novel coronavirus annually

Pfizer Inc’s CEO says he believes people will ‘likely’ need a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

During a panel discussion hosted by CNBC in conjunction with CVS Health taped on April 1, Albert Bourla said a potential booster shot would be administered six to 12 months of being fully vaccinated.  

Bourla added that he thinks it is possible that people will need to be immunized against coronavirus annually.    

‘There are vaccines that are like polio that one dose is enough…and there are vaccines like flu than you need every year,’ he said in the segment, aired on Wednesday.

‘The Covid virus looks more like the influenza virus than the polio virus.’  

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said it is ‘likely’ people will need a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech began studying a third dose of their vaccine in late February.

The booster shot is aimed at protecting against future variants, which may be better at evading antibodies from vaccine than earlier strains of the virus.

About 144 volunteers will be given the third dose, mostly those who participated in the vaccine’s early-stage U.S. testing last year.

The vaccine uses part of the pathogen’s genetic code called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to get the body to recognize the coronavirus and attack it if a person becomes infected.

In the jab, known as BNT162b2, the mRNA encodes for all of the spike protein found on the outside of the virus that it uses to enter and infect cells.

It was authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a clinical trial involving 44,000 volunteers found the shot was 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. 

Real-world data six months later showed that the vaccine offered 91 percent protection six months later. 

However, the company’s current two-dose regimen produced a weaker immune response against the South African variant.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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WHO says not to use ivermectin on COVID-19 patients

patient

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that ivermectin—touted by some on social media as a COVID-19 “miracle cure”—should not be used to treat coronavirus patients.

In response to the swirl of claims around the cheap anti-parasite drug, the WHO issued guidelines saying ivermectin should only be used on COVID-19 patients in clinical trial settings.

The UN health agency said there was a “very low certainty of evidence” on ivermectin’s effects on mortality, hospital admission and getting rid of the virus from the body.

Facebook posts and articles endorsing ivermectin have proliferated in Brazil, France, South Africa and South Korea as governments around the world struggle with vaccination programmes.

The pandemic has prompted a surge in demand for the drug, particularly in Latin America.

But in an update to its guidelines on COVID-19 therapeutics, the WHO said: “We recommend not to use ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except in the context of a clinical trial.

“This recommendation applies to patients with any disease severity and any duration of symptoms.”

‘Ongoing concerns’

The WHO looked at studies that compared ivermectin against a placebo and against other drugs, in 16 randomised control trials examining 2,400 patients.

“We currently lack persuasive evidence of a mechanism of action for ivermectin in COVID-19, and any observed clinical benefit would be unexplained,” it said.

The drug has long been used to treat parasites such as head lice and for river blindness in sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO recommendation was triggered by “increased international attention” on ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

But the guidance said: “The effects of ivermectin on mortality, mechanical ventilation, hospital admission, duration of hospitalisation and viral clearance remain uncertain because of very low certainty of evidence addressing each of these outcomes.”

WHO experts stressed that the guidelines were not rigid and could be updated over time if further evidence comes to light.

But for now, “the low cost and wide availability do not, in the panel’s view, mandate the use of a drug in which any benefit remains very uncertain and ongoing concerns regarding harms remain”.

WHO fighting ‘unproven therapies’

Ivermectin is one of a string of medications tested as a potential COVID-19 treatment since the pandemic began.

Like anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine—so far unproven by clinical trials—ivermectin is widely available and relatively cheap.

The recommendation is likely to provoke fury and scepticism among the drug’s social media champions.

Often the rhetoric doing the rounds on social media for ivermectin is the same as for hydroxychloroquine: that the authorities are deliberately ignoring it because it is not profitable for the pharmaceutical industry.

However, its claimed benefits in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has not been proven in major clinical trials.

The WHO’s clinical management leader Janet Diaz told reporters: “We’ve been fighting this over-use of unproven therapies, especially some of the repurposed drugs in various parts of the world without evidence of efficacy.

“So it is always concerning because there can be more harm than any good.”

Furthermore, “It can take resources away from conditions that should be treated with these drugs.”

Diversion

Proponents of ivermectin, like those of hydroxychloroquine, often argue that it is already widely used—even for totally different purposes—therefore its use for COVID-19 is nothing to worry about.

However, Bram Rochwerg, methods chair of the Guideline Development Group (GDG) behind the WHO recommendation, told reporters that while ivermectin was a “relatively safe drug”, the dosing regimes used for other illnesses were not comparable.

“The other potential for harm… was a diversion of attention and resources from supportive care that we know works for COVID patients,” he added.

Without evidence of efficacy, the GDG felt “these other factors outweighed any potential for uncertain benefit”.

Last week, the EU’s medicines regulator likewise advised against using ivermectin for coronavirus outside clinical trials.

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WHO report says animals likely source of COVID

WHO report says animals likely source of COVID

A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press.

The findings were largely as expected and left many questions unanswered, but the report provided in-depth detail on the reasoning behind the team’s conclusions. The researchers proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

The report’s release has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China. A World Health Organization official said late last week that he expected it would be ready for release “in the next few days.”

The AP received what appeared to be a near-final version on Monday from a Geneva-based diplomat from a WHO-member country. It wasn’t clear whether the report might still be changed prior to its release. The diplomat did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to release it ahead of publication.

The researchers listed four scenarios in order of likelihood for the emergence of the virus named SARS-CoV-2. Topping the list was transmission through a second animal, which they said was likely to very likely. They evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely, and said that spread through “cold-chain” food products was possible but not likely.

The closest relative of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in bats, which are known to carry coronaviruses. However, the report says that “the evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link.”

It said highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, but also noted that mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID virus, which suggests they could be carriers.

The report is based largely on a visit by a WHO team of international experts to Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected, from mid-January to mid-February.

Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO expert who led the Wuhan mission, said Friday that the report had been finalized and was being fact-checked and translated.

“I expect that in the next few days, that whole process will be completed and we will be able to release it publicly,” he said.




The draft report is inconclusive on whether the outbreak started at a Wuhan seafood market that had one of the earliest clusters of cases in December 2019.

The discovery of other cases before the Huanan market outbreak suggests it may have started elsewhere. But the report notes there could have been milder cases that went undetected and that could be a link between the market and earlier cases.

“No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn,” the report says.

As the pandemic spread globally, China found samples of the virus on the packaging of frozen food coming into the country and, in some cases, have tracked localized outbreaks to them.

The report said that the cold chain, as it is known, can be a driver of long-distance virus spread but was skeptical it could have triggered the outbreak. The report says the risk is lower than through human-to-human respiratory infection, and most experts agree.

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AstraZeneca says to release more data on US trials soon

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UK-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said Tuesday it will release further data “within 48 hours” on US trials of its COVID-19 vaccine, after health officials raised concerns about the initial information disclosed.

The company pushed back against a statement from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) which said that “outdated information” may have been used to conclude that its vaccine was highly effective against COVID.

“We have reviewed the preliminary assessment of the primary analysis and the results were consistent with the interim analysis,” AstraZeneca said in a statement.

“We intend to issue results of the primary analysis within 48 hours,” it added.

The US health agency’s evaluation comes after AstraZeneca said on Monday that stage three US trials of the vaccine had shown it was 79 percent effective.

It follows controversy over the vaccine’s rollout in Europe.

France, Germany and a number of other nations said last week they would resume using the jab after its introduction was suspended over potential links to blood clots among recipients.

Global health experts as well as AstraZeneca insist the vaccine is safe.

EU officials have also hit out at AstraZeneca for delivering its UK supply contract in full so far, while falling short on supplies to the continent.

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AstraZeneca vaccine safe, but rare risk of blood clots not ruled out, EU regulator says

The COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is safe and not linked to an increased risk of blood clots, according to an investigation by the European Union’s European Medicines Agency (EMA).

“This is a safe and effective vaccine. Its benefits in protecting people from COVID-19 with the associated risks of death and hospitalization outweigh the possible risks,” Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director, said at a news conference Thursday (March 18). 

However, the EMA investigation uncovered a few “rare and unusual but very serious clotting disorders” that the committee probed more closely, Cooke said. These included conditions such as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which clots form extensively throughout the body, and cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT), a rare form of stroke. 

“As of last night, seven cases of this disseminated intravascular coagulation and 18 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis were reported out of almost 20 million vaccinated people,” Cooke said. “After days of in-depth analysis of lab results, clinical reports, autopsy reports and other information from the clinical trials, we still cannot rule out definitively a link between these cases and the vaccine,” she said. 

Even if there is a link, if every one of these cases was caused by the vaccine, this would translate to a rate of roughly 1.25 per million vaccinated people. 

The committee will launch further investigations of these extremely rare clotting events and will continue to monitor any additional cases that crop up. In the meantime, they concluded that the vaccine is safe and effective enough to warrant its continued use in the general public.

The EMA initially launched its investigation after many European countries — including Germany, France, Italy and Spain — halted their distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing concerns about blood clots and abnormal bleeding among vaccinated people, CNBC reported. In response to these reports from Europe, Indonesia also decided to delay its rollout of the vaccine, and Thailand briefly suspended use of the shots last weekend, The Associated Press reported

More than 17 million people in the U.K. and EU have already received the AstraZeneca shot, according to a March 14 statement from AstraZeneca. “The number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, said in the statement. 

Furthermore, the company has not observed any evidence of increased bleeding among the tens of thousands of people in clinical trials for the vaccine, according to the statement. 

As of March 8, the company had received 22 reports of pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the arteries of the lungs), and 15 reports of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins of the body), across the EU and U.K. “This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size,” the company stated. 

The company noted that “available evidence does not confirm that the vaccine is the cause” of these clots. However, the nature of the more unusual clotting disorders, like CVT, drew concern from some doctors. 

For instance, numerous patients showed widespread blood clots, internal bleeding and low platelet counts; platelets are small blood cells involved in clotting. And several people in Germany developed CVT, Science Magazine reported. Germany received seven reports of these rare strokes and found that the events occurred four to 16 days after each patient’s vaccination; three of these patients died. This pattern is what prompted Germany to pause use of the shots, Science reported.

In theory, the clotting and bleeding disorders could stem from an overblown immune reaction to the vaccine, Dr. Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, told Science. Future EMA investigations will likely explore this possibility.  

Other scientists have wondered whether the problem may lie with specific batches of the vaccine, which they posit may have become contaminated or contained a higher dose than usual. In general, AstraZeneca supplies European countries with vaccines produced at several different facilities. But the EMA’s safety committee, Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), has “found no evidence of a quality or a batch issue,” PRAC Chairwoman Sabine Straus said at the news conference.  

Just because the clots and bleeding disorders emerged after vaccination “does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to vaccination itself, but it is good practice to investigate them,” the World Health Organization noted in a statement released March 17. Blood clots are the third-most-common cardiovascular condition globally, and they occur frequently in the general population, according to the statement. 

For instance, an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 U.S. residents develop blood clots in their lungs or deep veins each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). EU residents develop blood clots at similar annual rates, and in clinical studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the rate of clotting episodes did not exceed the expected rate, the EMA reported, according to The Associated Press

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But again, rarer conditions such as DIC and CVT will need to be investigated more closely in vaccinated people.

Echoing the EMA’s conclusions, the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) also found no link between the vaccine and blood clots, according to BBC News

Those who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine can submit reports to the company about any potential side effects or health-related issues they experience. The U.K. publishes summaries of these reports online, and so far, the most commonly reported symptoms include mild to moderate side effects, like headache, fatigue, soreness at the injection site and chills. Scattered reports of thrombosis, or blood clots, can also be seen in these summaries.  

Clearly, not all of these reported conditions could be caused by the vaccine. People have reported post-vaccine conditions such as “sunburn,” “breath odor,” “hiccups,” “arthropod stings” and “genital herpes,” as seen in the summary from early January to late February. One recipient reported getting a face-lift after being vaccinated. In other words, some medical conditions reported post-vaccination may be totally unrelated to the shots. 

Originally published on Live Science. 

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Drugmaker Lilly says Covid treatment slashed hospitalization and deaths

COVID-19

US drugmaker Eli Lilly’s combination of two synthetic antibodies reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19 by 87 percent in trials, the company said Wednesday.

The results come from a Phase 3 clinical trial of 769 people aged 12 and over with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, who were considered high-risk because of their age or underlying conditions.

Among them, 511 received the combination treatment, which is authorized for emergency use in the United States, and 258 received a placebo.

There were four hospitalizations and no deaths in the treatment group, while four people died in the placebo group and 11 were hospitalized. This represented a statistically significant risk reduction of 87 percent.

The new results add to previous data reported by the company in January which used different dosing levels for the two antibodies and also showed a drastic risk reduction.

The new results came with 700 mg of the antibody bamlanivimab and 1400 mg of etesevimab while the previously reported data used a combination of 2800 mg of each.

“The consistent results observed in multiple cohorts of this trial over several months, even as new strains of COVID-19 have emerged, indicate bamlanivimab with etesevimab maintains its effects against a range of variants,” said Daniel Skovronsky, the company’s chief scientific officer.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made versions of the body’s natural infection-fighting defenses.

Our bodies develop these proteins in response to pathogens, and vaccines train the immune systems to be prepared without encountering the live microbe itself.

Giving people ready-made antibodies can help those who are at high risk of severe disease because of weak immunity or underlying conditions.

But their uptake has been limited by factors including a lack of patient interest, and not enough staffing and places inside hospitals to administer them.

It can also be challenging to identify candidates who are at high risk but haven’t yet progressed to severe COVID.

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Top US health official says not time to end COVID-19 curbs

mask

A top US health official warned Wednesday that measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 had to stay in place if the pandemic is to be beaten, after Texas dropped its mask-wearing mandate.

The United States has recorded over 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus, but has recently made progress with its vaccination plan and some states are easing controls—triggering alarm from health experts and the federal government.

“Now is not the time to release all restrictions… the next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes,” said Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Every individual is empowered to do the right thing here regardless of what the states decide… I would still encourage individuals to wear a mask, to socially distance.”

Biden has hailed recent success in distributing vaccines but stressed that Americans should continue to wear masks as his administration tries to quell the soaring death toll and the risk posed by new virus variants.

“The president is 100 percent behind Doctor Walensky and the CDC’s recommendations,” White House coronavirus advisor Andy Slavitt said, speaking after Walensky at a coronavirus briefing.

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Rebel Wilson Says People Treat Her Differently After 61-Pound Weight Loss

Seeing things clearly. Rebel Wilson opened up about the change she has seen in others following her dramatic weight loss after her “year of health” in 2020.

Rebel Wilson’s Weight Transformation Over the Years

“I think what’s been really interesting to me is how other people treat you,” Wilson, 40, said during an appearance on The Morning Crew With Hughesy, Ed and Erin radio show on Wednesday, January 27. “Sometimes being bigger, people didn’t necessarily look twice at you. And now that I’m in a good shape, like, people offer to carry my groceries to the car and hold doors open for you. I was like, ‘Is this what other people experienced all the time?’”

The Pitch Perfect actress, who lost more than 60 pounds last year, admitted she was surprised by how much attention people give a weight loss transformation “when there’s so much going on in the world.”

The Isn’t It Romantic star revealed that her inner beauty, however, has never changed.

Rebel Wilson Reveals Diet Secrets, What She Learned During Her ‘Year of Health’

“I like to think I looked good at all sizes and stuff and I’ve always been quite confident,” she said. “So, it wasn’t like I wasn’t confident and then now I’m, like, super confident.”

Wilson, who reached her goal weight of 165 pounds in November 2020, joked that her new outward appearance has created a bit of a selfie monster.

“You can tell that I post, like, a lot of photos of myself on Instagram. I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, loving myself,’” she said. “I know I should calm down a bit on that.”

Last month, the Australia native opened up about why she got serious about health, noting there were lots of ups and downs on her journey.

“I’ve been overweight for about 20 years and I love playing some of the comedic characters like Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect and everything. I love all that stuff but at a certain point, I knew in my heart that I was engaging in some unhealthy behaviors,” she said in a December Instagram Live video. “I needed to change those for the better and so what I’m proud of myself for is for doing that and having a lot more balance now in my life.”

Stars’ Most Dramatic Weight Loss Transformations: Photos

The comedian shared her goals for her “year of health” mission in May 2020, telling fans via Instagram that she was focused on getting to “75kgs,” which is roughly 165 pounds, and career-wise she was “trying to get one of my movies into production.”

She added: “Even if you have to crawl towards your goals, keep going x it will be worth it. Try and give a little bit of effort each day. I know some days are frustrating as hell, you feel like giving up, you get annoyed at the lack of progress … but good things are coming your way.”

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