First known case of South Africa COVID-19 variant detected in Wisconsin: DHS


The first known case of the South Africa COVID-19 variant has been detected in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced Friday.

This strain, also known as B.1.351, is distinctive from the United Kingdom or B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in our state on Jan. 12.

The South Africa variant was discovered circulating in South Africa back in October of 2020. Researchers conclude the new strains spread more rapidly and easily than the original COVID-19 strain. It remains unclear, though, if the new strain causes worse symptoms.

The DHS notes there is some evidence suggesting the South Africa variant may affect how some antibodies respond to the virus. All three authorized vaccines in the U.S. effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all of the circulating variants, the DHS stated.

The DHS says the South Africa variant was identified through ongoing surveillance and whole-genome sequencing. The department did not say where the strain was found in the state.

“It’s obviously very concerning because we’ve heard about it for the last several months in other predominant parts of the country, and now we have it here in our own backyard,” Dr. Ignace said.

Dr. Lyle Ignace is the CEO of the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center in Milwaukee. He said the emergence of variants is why he keeps reminding patients to continue wearing masks and social distancing.

“Until we truly know the true effectiveness of all three vaccines that are out now, we won’t really know for months now how impactful these new variants will be,” Dr. Ignace said.

All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, change through mutation, a reality DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk wanted to remind residents in the statement:

“It is important to remember that new variants are expected to occur over time. Here in Wisconsin, whole genome sequencing of positive specimens from COVID-19 cases is done on a regular basis. Because these variants may spread more easily than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, mask wearing, staying home, physically distancing, and washing your hands continues to be crucial.”

The Indian Health Center will host a vaccine clinic for all enrolled tribal members and descendants ages 18 and older who live in Milwaukee County on March 9 through 11.

“When we do call individuals and say you’re eligible for the vaccine, they’re almost elated,” Dr. Ignace said. “And when they do come and get their vaccine, you can see the relief come off their shoulders.”

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COVID-19 case hits Indian boxers in Spanish tourney, three men pull out from final


The Indian men’s boxing team’s final campaign at the 35th Boxam International Tournament in Castellon, Spain was derailed by a positive COVID-19 case in the side, resulting in three withdrawals from the final matches.

Olympic-bound Ashish Kumar (75kg) tested positive for the virus and as a result of being his roommates, Mohammed Hussamuddin (57kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg) were forced to withdraw from the finals on Sunday night.

All three of them ended with silver medals, which could have been gold but for the unforeseen circumstances.

“What started as a great competition has ended in an anti-climax,” Indian boxing’s High Performance Director Santiago Nieva told PTI from Castellon.

Ashish is “asymptomatic and is doing fine”. He will serve his quarantine in Castellon for two weeks before heading back to India.

Hussamuddin and Sumit have tested negative and are travelling back with the team, which will land in Mumbai on Monday.

Veteran Satish Kumar (+91kg) was also unable to compete in the final due to “sickness”.

Manish Kaushik (63kg) ended up being the sole gold medal winner for the side, beating Denmark’s Nikolai Terteryan in the final to complete a brilliant comeback from a knee injury which kept him out of action for a year.

Among the women, Simranjit Kaur (60kg), who is also bound for the Olympics, was forced out of her final after her semifinal opponent — Kiria Tapia of Puerto Rico — tested positive for the virus. The Indian, however, has returned a negative test.

“Because of local government regulations, she could not compete,” Indian women’s boxing’s high performance director Rafaelle Bergamasco said.

Vikas Krishan (69kg) was the only other male boxer to compete on Sunday, losing a gruelling contest to Spain’s Youba Sissokho. The Indian was left with a cut above his right eye in the ferocious contest.

In the women’s draw, Pooja Rani (75kg) and Jasmine (57kg) also signed off with silver medals after being beaten by superior opponents in American Melissa Graham and Italian Irma Testa respectively.

India’s campaign thus ended with one gold, eight silver and one bronze medal that was claimed by six-time world champion M C Mary Kom.



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Chinese urgency on COVID-19 goes missing in vaccination drive


BEIJING: Shirley Shi has received three offers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – through her hometown, her Beijing residential area and her office area – but the human resources manager is in no rush.

“I’d like to keep an eye out for any adverse effects first,” said Shi, who like many Chinese seems happy to take a wait-and-see approach.

Through aggressive lockdowns and mass testing of millions, China has had success controlling the virus that first surfaced on its soil in late 2019.

But vaccinating the world’s most populous country is a different story.

China is still working to ramp up production of its four domestically-produced vaccines and has yet to approve any foreign-made shots in a global race for bragging rights.

For Shi, the problem is not accessibility, but a lack of urgency.

“With China’s control of the epidemic domestically and my lack of plans to go abroad in the near-term, there is no need for now,” she said.

Chinese experts have signalled the vaccination rate could soon quicken.

Zhong Nanshan, a respected pulmonologist and key national figure in the fight against COVID-19, said recently that China plans to immunise 40 per cent of its 1.4 billion people by June.

That would require massively increasing the number of jabs given in China, where currently only around 3.5 per cent of the population is inoculated.

That’s far behind the United Kingdom’s 32.99 jabs per 100 people and the United States’ 25.42, according to Our World in Data, a collaboration between Oxford University and a charity.

READ: Why is Asia slow to get vaccinated? A commentary

“The sense of urgency that exists in the West, where vaccination is no less than an expected game-changer, is not present in China,” said Mathieu Duchatel, director of the Asia Programme at Institut Montaigne, a Paris-based think tank.

China has had success controlling coronavirus, but vaccinations in the world's most populous

China has had success controlling COVID-19, but vaccinations in the world’s most populous country have proceeded slowly. (Photo: AFP)

HEALTH RISKS

The slower pace could pose risks for China by delaying herd immunity.

There is no globally-accepted standard for the percentage of a population that needs to be jabbed – or to develop the necessary antibodies through infection – for herd immunity against COVID-19 to kick in.

READ: Don’t focus on herd immunity, vaccination should be comprehensive – COVID-19 panel expert

A November paper in medical journal Lancet estimated that percentage at 60 to 72 for a 100 per cent effective vaccine, while Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese disease control agency, put it at 70 to 80 per cent for China in comments this week.

China would need to administer 10 million doses every day for seven months to reach such thresholds, Chinese infectious disease specialist Zhang Wenhong told a recent forum. Only around 52.5 million doses had been administered as of end-February, according to Zhong.

The current pace is of “great concern”, Zhang added.

China has committed to shipping vaccines overseas as it works to blunt foreign criticism of the

China has committed to shipping COVID-19 vaccines overseas as it works to blunt foreign criticism of the initial spread of the virus from its shores. (Photo: AFP/Handout)

Besides quickening production, China has also committed to shipping vaccines overseas as it works to blunt foreign criticism of the initial spread of the virus from its shores.

Chinese companies are set to export nearly 400 million doses, state media has reported, and the government said it is providing free vaccines to 53 countries.

China is caught between “both the vaccination requirement of achieving herd immunity … and the demand associated with its vaccine diplomacy”, said Huang Yanzhong Huang, a global health fellow at the US Council on Foreign Relations.

READ: China sets ‘low bar’ for GDP growth, pledges more jobs

Huang said delays in herd immunity could mean China falls behind in reopening its borders – now largely closed to all but Chinese citizens – while other economies forge ahead.

This “might make China look bad”, he said.

SCEPTICISM

In China, public take-up of the vaccine may also be slowed by trust issues in a country with a history of drug-safety scandals.

Market research firm Ipsos found in January that 85 per cent of adults in China said they were willing to get jabbed, but it was unclear how soon they would do so.

READ: China cracks down on fake COVID-19 vaccines

At one Beijing clinic, a doctor said jabs had been offered to all staff, but many demurred until more data on vaccine efficacy was available.

Some are taking a wait-and-see approach to getting vaccinated in China, where currently only 3.5

Some are taking a wait-and-see approach to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in China. (Photo: AFP/Noel Celis)

Chinese producers are yet to release detailed data, unlike their foreign rivals.

China’s vaccinations started last year with key groups like medical staff and state workers headed overseas. This has been expanded to other citizens, although largely in the biggest cities.

With its resources and demonstrated ability to mobilise for a mass effort, China may well catch up on vaccination rates once supplies increase.

Zhang Yutong, a dental clinic employee, was among a steady flow of people streaming in to one Beijing clinic after her employer arranged for jabs.

She told AFP nearly two-thirds of her colleagues had also taken the offer.

“The epidemic has become a regular part of life. It’s better to have antibodies,” she said.

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Moderna reaches supply deal with Philippines for 13 million COVID-19 vaccine doses


CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts: Moderna said on Saturday (Mar 6) it has agreed to supply the Philippines government 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, with deliveries set to begin in mid-2021.

The company will work with regulators to pursue necessary approvals prior to the distribution, it said in a press release.

READ: Philippines launches COVID-19 vaccinations amid supply problems

Moderna said it expected to reach a separate deal with the Philippines government and private sector to supply an additional 7 million doses.

In January, the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration approved the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use.

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City of Toronto ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines 24/7 as long as supply allows – Toronto


As cities prepare for an expanded COVID-19 vaccine distribution, the call to increase the accessibility of doses continues to grow.

City councillor Shelley Carroll is putting forward a motion to Toronto council this week asking for clinics to expand their hours of operation and to consider offering the COVID-19 vaccine 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Carroll said people need more details when it comes to the city’s plans.

“Social media lit up after I moved this motion,” Carroll said. “Mostly with young people saying, ‘yeah I’d go at three in the morning.’”

Read more:
Coronavirus: Toronto still waiting on vaccine supply boost from province

However, the chair of Toronto’s board of health, Joe Cressy, said offering COVID-19 vaccines around the clock is not new. Cressy said this has always been part of the city’s strategy to administer the doses as quickly as possible.  “Toronto has developed an immunization model that can be scaled at any time based on supply,” Cressy said. “…so if we have enough supply to run 24 hours and get them out faster, that’s exactly what we’re ready to do.”

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Experts say the location of the clinics also plays a key role to ensure as many people as possible choose to get vaccinated. Kate Mulligan, an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said offering clinics only during business hours would be a significant barrier for communities hardest hit by the virus.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Ontario doctors ‘frustrated’ by Ford government’s vaccine rollout plan

“We have people who are shift workers for example, or who can’t take time off work during traditional business hours,” Mulligan said. “They need to be able to have access all through the day and night.”

Doctors have said repeatedly that timing is everything. “It is very clear that we need to get this done as rapidly as possible,” said family physician Dr. Liz Muggah, who also serves as the president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

Should the 24-hour clinic model be replicated in other parts of the province, Muggah said family physicians remain ready and willing to help. “Many family doctors have signed up for these mass vaccine clinics that are going to open,” Muggah said. “If we added shifts that were going to be overnight, I know my colleagues across the province would be prepared to step up.”




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Coronavirus: Latest developments in the Greater Toronto Area on March 6


Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in the Greater Toronto Area for Saturday.


Over 197K vaccine doses administered in Toronto to date

The City of Toronto posted an update on its COVID-19 vaccination program Saturday and said to date, nearly 200,000 doses have been administered in the city.

In the news release, officials said a number of hospitals and community health-care centres in the city are continuing to vaccinate those identified as being a part of a current priority population in Ontario’s vaccination framework, including those aged 80 and older.

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Officials said to date, 197,155 doses have been administered in the city.

Fifteen clinics are operating in Toronto this weekend for individuals who have confirmed appointments.

“As vaccine supply for the general population becomes widely available from the Government of Canada and the Ontario government, more than 350 clinics, including pharmacies and mobile clinics across Toronto, will vaccinate people based on the priority framework established by the province,” the news release said.

Read more:
Ford government aims to have all eligible Ontarians receive 1st COVID-19 vaccine shot by June 20


Click to play video 'What you need to know as Toronto, Peel head into grey zone'



What you need to know as Toronto, Peel head into grey zone


What you need to know as Toronto, Peel head into grey zone


Status of cases in the GTA

Ontario reported a total of 990 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.

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Of those:

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  • 284 were in Toronto
  • 173 were in Peel Region
  • 82 were in York Region
  • 32 were in Durham Region
  • 34 were in Halton Region


Ontario reports 990 new cases, 6 more deaths

Ontario reported 990 cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 306,997.

A total of 289,735 COVID-19 cases are considered resolved, which is up by 1,152 and is 94.4 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Six new deaths were also reported on Saturday, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,052.

The province indicated that the positivity rate for the last day was 2.3 per cent, which is the same as Friday’s report and is up from last Saturday’s report, when it was 2.1 per cent.

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Read more:
Ontario reports 990 new coronavirus cases, 6 more deaths


Record number of new vaccinations reported in Ontario

As of 8 p.m. Friday, Ontario had administered 860,412 COVID-19 vaccine doses, which is up by a record 39,698 over 24 hours.

So far, 270,625 people in the province are considered to be fully vaccinated.





© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Over 33k People Vaccinated on Saturday; Highest Number of Daily Inoculations So Far Since Jan 16


New Delhi: Over 33,000 beneficiaries received shots of COVID-19 vaccine in the national capital on Saturday, the highest number of people vaccinated in a single day since the starting of the inoculation exercise on January 16, officials said. In the age bracket of 60 and above, 17,288 people were vaccinated while in the 45-59 years age group, 2,824 beneficiaries received the jabs, a senior official said.

“Today, Delhi witnessed the highest number of vaccinations done so far since the start of the exercise on January 16,” he said. Under the nationwide mega vaccination drive launched mid-January, a total of 4,319 (53 per cent) health workers against a target of 8,117, were administered the shots at 81 centres across the city on day one.

In the first phase, starting January 16, over 3.6 lakh beneficiaries comprising healthcare workers and frontline workers, have been vaccinated in Delhi. Over 5,100 senior citizens in Delhi had received their first shots of the vaccine on March 1 when the second phase of the vaccination drive had begun in the national capital.

“Today, 33,287 people were vaccinated, out of which 17,288 were citizens in the age group of 60 and above,” the official said. Two minor cases of AEFI (adverse events following immunisation) were reported on Saturday, he said, adding that the exercise was carried out across 403 sites.

On Friday, a total of 27,057 people had received the shots. About 66 per cent of people (13,355) turned up at private facilities and remaining 34 per cent (6757) at government facilities for vaccination, as per the data shared by officials.

As per official estimates, there are around 43 lakh people in the specified priority category of 60 years or above and those within 45-59 years with comorbidities in Delhi. People within the age group of 45-59 years with comorbidities are required to produce a comorbidity certificate signed by a registered medical practitioner. A total of 20 comorbidities have been specified for vaccination, the officials said.

People eligible for vaccination also have to carry their photo identity cards, including Aadhaar card, PAN card or voter ID card. On Saturday, second doses were given to 7,132 people, officials said, adding, 3,769 frontline workers and 2,274 healthcare workers were also vaccinated.

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Centre Tells 8 States, UTs with High Covid Cases; Teams Rushed to Maha, Punjab


The government on Saturday asked eight states, union territories reporting a high active Covid-19 caseload to continue with the strategy of “test, track and treat” which it said had yielded results at the height of the pandemic.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, and NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr Vinod Paul, interacted with Health Secretaries and MDs (NHM) of Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and UTs of Delhi and Chandigarh. They reviewed surveillance, containment, and Covid-19 response as recently these states/UTs have reported increased Covid-19 positivity and a rising number of daily cases.

The Centre also asked the concerned authorities to pay attention to prompt isolation and medical supervision of active cases in home isolation, and to watch out for super-spreading events.

The government said that 9 districts in Delhi, 15 in Haryana, 10 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Odisha, 9 in Himachal Pradesh, 7 in Uttarakhand, 2 in Goa, 1 in Chandigarh were seeing a decrease in total tests being conducted; low share of RT-PCR tests; increase in weekly positivity and the low number of contact tracing of the Covid-19 positive cases. It was determined that this could pose a high risk of transmission to the neighbouring states and UTs.

These are among the measures the states/UTs were directed to take:

• Continue with the strategy of ‘Test Track and Treat’.

• Improve overall testing in districts reporting a reduction in testing

• Increase share of RT-PCR tests in districts dependent on high levels of antigen testing.

• Refocus on surveillance and stringent containment of those areas in selected districts that are seeing a cluster of cases.

• Carry out an average close contact tracing of a minimum of 20 persons per positive case.

• Focus on clinical management in districts reporting higher deaths.

• Actuate their health infrastructure to provide effective clinical management to all the patients as a surge in cases also affects the case fatality rate in those districts.

• Accelerate vaccination for priority population groups in districts reporting higher cases.

• Make optimal use of the available vaccine doses and focus on critical districts.

• To collaborate with the private hospitals to open up vaccination time-table for a minimum of 15 days and maximum of 28 days at a time.

• Promote COVID-appropriate behaviour through communication and enforcement.

The Centre also asked the concerned authorities to pay attention to prompt isolation and medical supervision of active cases in home isolation, and to watch out for super-spreading events.

Meanwhile, the government rushed high-level multi-disciplinary public health teams to Maharashtra and Punjab given the increase in the number of daily COVID-19 cases being reported by the states. The teams are being deployed to assist State Health Departments in coronavirus surveillance, control, and containment measures, the Union health ministry said.

The high-level team to Maharashtra will be led by P Ravindran, Sr CMO, Disaster Management Cell, MOHFW. While the public health team to Punjab will be led by S K Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, it said. The teams will visit the (COVID-19) hotspot areas in the states and ascertain reasons for the surge in cases, the ministry said.

According to the ministry data, there are 6,661 active coronavirus cases in Punjab and 90,055 cases in Maharashtra. They will also brief the chief secretary/secretary (health) on their observations and remedial measures to be undertaken by the respective state health authorities.

The Union government has been leading the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with a Whole of Government’ and Whole of Society’ approach under the umbrella strategy of Cooperative Federalism’, the ministry said. As ongoing efforts to strengthen the initiatives of various state and Union territory (UT) governments for COVID management, the government has been deputing central teams from time to time to visit various states/UTs.

These teams interact with the state and UT authorities and get a first-hand understanding of the challenges and issues being faced by them to strengthen their ongoing activities and remove bottlenecks if any. The reports of central teams are shared with the states for further follow-up action, it added.

(With inputs from PTI)





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Ontario reports 990 new coronavirus cases, 6 more deaths


Ontario reported 990 cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 306,997.

“Locally, there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel and 82 in York Region,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

A total of 289,735 COVID-19 cases are considered resolved, which is up by 1,152.

Six new deaths were also reported on Saturday, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,052.

More than 57,800 additional tests were completed. Ontario has now completed a total of 11,351,768 tests and 27,796 remain under investigation.

Read more:
Ford government aims to have all eligible Ontarians receive 1st COVID-19 vaccine shot by June 20

The province indicated that the positivity rate for the last day was 2.3 per cent, which is the same as Friday’s report and is up from last Saturday’s report, when it was 2.1 per cent.

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Provincial figures showed there are 620 people hospitalized with the virus (down by 23), with 278 in intensive care (down by two), 181 of whom are on a ventilator (down by two).

As of 8 p.m. Friday, Ontario had administered 860,412 COVID-19 vaccine doses, which is up by a record 39,698 over 24 hours.

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So far, 270,625 people are considered to be fully vaccinated.

More to come…

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