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COVID-19 Around the World

Covid in North Korea



Top North Korean officials discussed revising anti-epidemic restrictions on Sunday as they assessed the situation over the country’s first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak was “improving”, state media reported.

A politburo meeting guided by leader Kim Jong Un “made a positive evaluation of the pandemic situation being controlled and improved across the country and discussed the issues of continuously stabilising and improving the overall anti-epidemic situation,” said KCNA news agency.

North Korea reported no new deaths among fever patients for a second consecutive day, and said 89,500 more people showed fever symptoms on Sunday.

That is down from nearly 400,000 about 11 days ago.

The isolated country has been fighting an unprecedented COVID wave since declaring a state of emergency and imposing a nationwide lockdown this month, fuelling concerns about lack of vaccines, medical supplies and food.

Efforts to strengthen anti-epidemic measures were being taken across North Korea, including collecting rain water, examining virus-resistant medicines and setting up quarantine places, KCNA said.

Many outside experts say North Korea is clearly understating its fatality rate to prevent any political damage to Kim at home.

They say North Korea should have suffered many more deaths because its 26 million people are largely unvaccinated against COVID-19 and it lacks the capacity to treat patients with critical conditions.

Others suspect North Korea might have exaggerated its earlier fever cases to try to strengthen its internal control of its population.

Since its May 12 admission of the Omicron outbreak, North Korea has only been announcing the number of patients with feverish symptoms daily, but not those with COVID-19, apparently because of a shortage of test kits to confirm coronavirus cases in large numbers.

But many outside health experts view most of the reported fever cases as COVID-19, saying North Korean authorities would know how to distinguish the symptoms from fevers caused by other prevalent infectious diseases.

The outbreak has forced North Korea to impose a nationwide lockdown, isolate all work and residential units from one another and ban region-to-region movements.

The country still allows key agricultural, construction and other industrial activities, but the toughened restrictions have triggered worries about its food insecurity and a fragile economy already hit hard by pandemic-caused border shutdowns.

Some observers say North Korea will likely soon declare victory over COVID-19 and credit it to Kim’s leadership.

Yang Un-chul, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said the North’s recently elevated restrictions must be dealing a serious blow to its coal, agricultural and other labour-intensive industrial sectors.

But he said those difficulties won’t likely develop to a level that threatens Mr Kim’s grip on power, as the COVID-19 outbreak and strengthened curbs have given him a chance to boost his control of his people.

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COVID-19 Around the World

Weekly news at a glance




(Worldwide) Covid positive kids separated from parents in Shanghai

A hospital in Shanghai is sending COVID-positive children and parents to different quarantine facilities, an online debate has revealed. Unverified images of children, three-to-a-cot, being tended to by workers in hazmat suits circulated on the WeChat social media platform.

The centre accused of housing the children, the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre in the city’s Jinshan district, took to the social media site to debunk the rumours, but in doing so confirmed the existence of the quarantine site.

It added it had organised for more paediatric workers and would strengthen communication with the children’s parents in the wake of criticism from parents whose children have been housed in the facility.


(Worldwide) U.S. drops COVID testing for air travelers

In one of the most anticipated travel developments this year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is poised to lift its requirement for travelers to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the United States, CNN learned on Friday.

The measure has been in place since January 2021. The move is likely to encourage travelers around the world to plan a summer vacation in the States and encourage more US travelers to venture abroad knowing they’re less likely to get stranded overseas with a positive test. Air travel has been far from smooth this season so far.


(Worldwide) Face of Hospitality in the Post-Covid World

Studies show that consumer spending on discretionary items like travel, eating out, entertainment etc would stay low and focus would stay on the basics like groceries, internet and mobile services etc. This indicates that there is still time for the hospitality industry to reach its glory of the pre-pandemic times. Similarly, those businesses that depend on the travel and tourism sector are likely to suffer the lul.

Hotels depend heavily on the revenue they generate from business travelers. But, given the current scenario, that too will take time to recover. With the death of many organizations that funded such business travel, it is likely that about 5-10% of it would never return. This makes it imperative that the businesses keep a close watch on the trends that determine the future of the hospitality and tourism industry and plan accordingly.


(AUS) Tutors in high demand, but doubts on program for next year

The state government’s 480 million dollar coronavirus catch-up tutoring program has been compromised by teacher shortages, due to COVID and influenza. The program aimed to benefit all government and low-fee private schools in helping students whose learning stalled during the pandemic.

According to Andrew Dalgleish, president of the Victorian Principals Association, most schools were forced to replace sick staff with the tutors to take whole classes. Victorian government awaits a final report before considering if it will recommit to the program.


(AUS) COVID-19 vaccine booster available for at-risk children aged 12 to 15

Children aged 12 to 15 years, who are severely immunocompromised and children with a disability, are eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine from this week. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended extending eligibility for the Pfizer booster to about 120-thousand children.

Those eligible must have received their second dose at least three months ago, be severely immunocompromised, have a disability, or complex health conditions which increase the risk of severe COVID-19. Children who are NOT considered at-risk, who have received two vaccine doses, are still considered to be well protected against severe disease.


(AUS) Free flu vaccinations for Victoria

Free flu vaccinations are available to anyone aged 6 months and over until 30 June. Everyone aged 6 months and older is recommended to get the flu vaccine, especially people aged 65 years and over, people at higher risk of serious illness of complications from flu, pregnant women and children under 5 years.

The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you against flu, you still need to get the flu vaccine. The best protection for families and communities this winter is to get vaccinated against both flu and COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Around the World

Shanghai ease Covid isolation



A partial reopening of stores and offices in Beijing on Sunday was welcomed by a weary populace and struggling shopkeepers eager for life to return to normal. Coupled with a gradual easing of restrictions in Shanghai, it signalled the worst was over in the twin outbreaks in China’s most prominent cities.

More people have been allowed out of their homes, and more businesses are permitted to reopen, although most residents remain largely confined to their housing compounds, with shops mainly limited to deliveries.

Restaurants remain closed in Beijing, except for takeout and delivery, and many people in Shanghai still can only go out with special passes and for a limited time period, even as the number of new cases has plummeted. Shanghai aims to essentially end its lockdown from Wednesday after relaxing restrictions over the past week. 

Shanghai officials urged continued vigilance, even though the vast majority of its 25 million residents live in areas that are in the lowest-risk “prevention” category.

“Wear masks in public, no gathering and keep social distance,” Shanghai Municipal Health Commission’s deputy director, Zhao Dandan, told a daily news conference.

China reports 362 new cases

On Friday, Shanghai’s suburban Fengxian district cancelled a requirement for residents to have a pass to go out.

The state-run Shanghai Securities News reported modest steps towards a return to normality for the financial sector, with the more-than-10,000 bankers and traders who have been living and working in their offices since the start of lockdown gradually returning home.

On Saturday, the country reported 362 daily COVID-19 cases, down from 444 a day earlier. In Beijing, new Friday infections fell to 24 from 29.

While Shanghai officials reported one community-level case in the Songjiang district, they expressed confidence in the steps they were taking to trace and control the infection chain.

“If these measures are implemented effectively, we can prevent a rebound of the epidemic, even if there are sporadic cases, so don’t worry,” Shanghai Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s deputy director, Sun Xiaodong, said.

Beijing officials say outbreak ‘effectively under control’

In Beijing, new cases have trended lower for six days, with no fresh infections outside of quarantine areas reported on Friday.

The outbreak that began on April 22 is “effectively under control”, a city government spokesman told a news conference.

Starting on Sunday, shopping malls, libraries, museums, theatres and gyms will be allowed to reopen — with limits on the numbers of people allowed — in the eight of Beijing’s 16 districts that have seen no community cases for seven consecutive days.

Two of the districts will end work-from-home rules, while public transportation will largely resume in three districts, including Chaoyang, the city’s largest.

While nationwide case numbers are improving, China’s strict adherence to its “zero-COVID” strategy has devastated the world’s second-largest economy and rattled global supply chains.

The lockdowns and other restrictions under China’s “zero-COVID” strategy have increasingly frustrated residents as they see other countries ease up and re-open their borders. 

Some have resisted and staged protests at apartment complexes and university dormitories, in an authoritarian country where people think twice about speaking out publicly because of possible repercussions.

Officials tend to err on the side of caution under a system that readily punishes them for lax enforcement if outbreaks flare up or come back.

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COVID-19 Around the World

Weekly news at a glance




(Worldwide) Long-haul Covid still drains patients

While there has indeed been significant research into long Covid over the past two years – including a few studies published last week – some infectious disease experts say we still don’t know enough about the prevalence of the condition, what causes it, and how to treat it.

There is a need for more studies on long Covid featuring control groups, and people should continue to take precautions to avoid contracting Covid despite the lifting of restrictions and exhaustion with the pandemic, the experts say.


(Worldwide) Wastewater surveillance provides crucial COVID data

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater surveillance and analysis became a key tool in monitoring and measuring the amount of virus in communities.

But some experts caution that the data collected from these studies could also lead to privacy concerns, especially because samples are often gathered from public sources without individual consent.

“Bioethics, which sort of underlies what health-care providers do, has historically been based upon ‘do no harm’ — and the idea of informed consent,” said Steve Hrudey, a professor emeritus from the University of Alberta’s department of laboratory medicine and pathology. “Well, informed consent is really not possible for this kind of technique.”


(Worldwide) Nearly 15M people killed globally by COVID 

Nearly 15 million people were killed either by COVID-19 or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems during the first two years of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates.

The estimate is more than double the current official death toll of just over six million. Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to a WHO report issued on Thursday.

They estimated between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors linked to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID-19 patients.


(AUS) Free flu jabs to be available

All West Australian and South Australian residents will be eligible to receive a free flu vaccination in June. From Wednesday, WA residents of all ages will be able to receive their free flu jab at state-run clinics and participating pharmacies and GPs.

Free flu jabs will be made available to everyone in New South Wales from Wednesday. Usually only high-risk groups of people are eligible for free flu shots, but the state government has decided to pick up the tab for everyone in a bid to curb the massive rise in infections.

The Andrews government is slated to announce free flu vaccinations for Victorians as the state grapples with a tough start to the season.The Victorian government is yet to confirm when it will announce the flu vaccination regime. However, Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday authorities would have more to say about the vaccinations soon.


(AUS) States look to boost volunteer numbers as demand increases

Volunteering Victoria has reported a 50 percent fall in volunteer participation since the pandemic began in 2020. According to Volunteering Victoria’s Chief Executive Scott Miller, organisations across different sectors are struggling to fill volunteer roles despite increased demand. 

The Victorian government will open applications next month for 1.3 million dollars in grants – worth up to eighty-thousand dollars individually – to help organisations attract new volunteers. It will also unveil a new volunteering strategy for recruiting new volunteers, enticing former volunteers to return and offering training and professional development.


(AUS) Racism remains rife towards Chinese-Australians

One in five Chinese-Australians are experiencing racist attacks, more than two years after the pandemic began, according to a Lowy Institute report. Research from The Asian Australia Alliance found 61 per cent of racist incidents being reported were happening to Asian women.

According to University of Adelaide Chinese Studies professor Mobo Gao, these incidents were more commonly happening in spaces such as public transport where people are less accountable for expressing prejudice.

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