G7 brands Omicron ‘biggest threat to global public health’ and Biden w…

G7 brands Omicron ‘biggest threat to global public health’ and Biden w…

Health ministers from G7 nations met on Thursday and concluded that the Omicron variant was the ‘biggest current threat to global public health’, as President Joe Biden warned of a ‘winter of harsh illness and death’ for those who were refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Britain’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, chaired the meeting of his G7 counterparts – a discussion between the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan in addition as the U.K.

The ministers, according to a British statement after the meeting, emphasized the importance of equitable access to diagnostics, genome sequencing, vaccines and therapeutics to monitor and counter the threat from the variant.  

Javid said the emergency meeting he chaired had determined the threat the highly-transmissible variant posed to the world, saying countries were now ‘united in ramping up vaccinations at home and oversea’.  

The meeting came as Biden issued a stark warning about the risks the Omicron variant poses to the unvaccinated in particular, as the nation braces for a steep escalation in situations amid an expected surge in hospitalizations.  

‘It’s here, it’s spreading and it’s going to increase,’ Biden said on Thursday afternoon.

G7 ministers met on Thursday for a meeting chaired by Britain’s health secretary, Sajid Javid (pictured).  He said the meeting had determined the threat the transmissible variant posed to the world and countries were not ‘united in ramping up vaccinations at home and oversea’

‘It’s here, it’s spreading and it’s going to increase,’ President Joe Biden said of the Omicron variant, as he urged Americans to get their booster shots

Biden spoke as he met with Dr. Anthony Fauci and members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team

With the highly transmissible new variant spreading at an upsetting rate, amid an current surge in the Delta variant, Biden warned of the threat facing Americans who have not received Covid vaccines. 

‘For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of harsh illness and death,’ said Biden.

He also gave however another hard sell for Americans to get booster shots. 

‘Get your booster shot. It’s critically important,’ he said.  

‘So the whole point is: Omicron is here, it’s going to start to spread much more rapidly [in the] beginning of the year, and the only real protection is to get your shots. 

The president said if you have ‘everything, including your booster, you’re in really good shape. So move now. Move now,’ he concluded.

Biden wore a black confront disguise throughout his remarks in the Roosevelt Room in the White House.

Earlier, in an East Room ceremony with Medal of Honor recipients, Biden removed his disguise for remarks, but put it back on when standing with other recipients or family members. 

His remarks on Covid weren’t all pessimistic. 

‘Due to the steps we’ve taken Omicron is not however spread as fast as he would have otherwise done,’ he said.

‘But there’s good news. If you’re vaccinated, you have your booster shot, you’re protected from harsh illness and death, period. 

‘Number two: booster shots work.’

‘Three boosters are free, safe and functional. About 16 million people have been boosted. So go get your shot today. Go get boosted. If you’ve had your first two shots. If you haven’t, got get your first shot. It’s time It’s time. It’s past time.’

‘And we’re going to protect our economic recovery. If we do this, we’re going to keep schools and business open if we do this. And I want to see everyone around enjoy that.

Joining Biden was coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and members of his coronavirus team, in addition as Dr. Julie Ledgerwood and Dr. John Mascola of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center. 

Biden served with Bumpers, the former Arkansas governor, in the Senate. 

Biden began his remarks by waiving off questions in improvement – after his deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre got peppered with questions at a White House briefing about the state of his Build Back Better plan. 

‘I’m not going to take questions today because I have a direct message to the American people,’ Biden said.

The Biden administration is warning Covid test manufacturers and processing labs to be ready for a enormous spike in need over the next two months, a report revealed on Thursday.

Confirmed Omicron situations jumped 32 percent day-over-day on Thursday. 

While scientists say it appears to be milder than the principal Delta variant, they warn it could nevertheless present a problem for people who haven’t had their booster shot or are completely unvaccinated.

It’s already exploding in the UK, where pubs and restaurants have closed early for the holidays and health officials fear there could be 460,000 daily COVID situations by Christmas Eve. 

Britain’s daily case rate hit an upsetting record high with more than 88,000 people diagnosed in the last 24 hours. 

Biden’s health officials privately told the companies to be ready for need to double or triple to up to 5 million tests daily, five unnamed supplies told Politico.   

HHS’s Testing and Diagnostic Working Group is reportedly projecting that 3 to 5 million coronavirus tests could be needed per day in January or early February.

Currently the number is around 1.6 million per day. 

An HHS official told DailyMail.com that ‘We are modeling for a range of scenarios to prepare for possible future public health needs as we learn more about the Omicron variant.’

‘Testing need involves many behavioral variables, but we are focused on preparedness and continuing to make sure plenty of tests are obtainable along with vaccines, boosters, and other tools to help protect the American people.’ 

New Yorkers were standing in long lines for Covid tests on Thursday, as new daily situations jumped 26 percent and the daily positivity rate doubling over the time of only three days, with the Omicron variant to blame for the worsening spike. 

Jay Varma, senior public health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, described the situation as a rarity on Twitter Thursday. 

‘Um, we’ve never seen this before in NYC. Test positivity doubling in three days,’ he said.

He noted the city’s positivity rate from December 9 to December 12, pointing out that it had doubled from 3.9 percent to 7.8 percent.

‘observe: Test % is only for PCR & NYC does more per capita daily than most places ~67K PCR/day + 19K [reported] antigen over past few days,’ he additional. 

Long lines were seen across all five boroughs as people waited to get tested, despite the city being 81.5 per cent fully-vaccinated, with 16.5 per cent of residents also having their booster.  

People line up for a Covid test in Times Square on Thursday

Long lines of people waiting for a Covid test are seen in Brooklyn on Thursday

People line up in Greenwich Village, near some of the NYU buildings, on Thursday

Jay Varma, senior public health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, described the sharp increase of positivity rate as something unseen before in New York City

Unvaccinated people are being hit especially hard by this surge, with official city data showing that 804.46 out of every 100,000 testing positive for the virus during the week that ended on December 5 – nearly doubling from 415.99 situations per 100,000 a week earlier.

According to city data, 96.81 our of every 100,000 vaccinated residents tested positive that week.

Gerlan Suela, a Healthline Force employee administering tests in Astoria, Queens on Thursday told The New York Post that business was booming at his plastic bubble on Steinway Street.

‘typically we have 25 to 30 people per day but this morning, in just an hour, I had more than 50 people,’ he said.

‘I started swabbing at 8:30 a.m. I ran out in an hour. I waited an hour to get restocked.’ 

Restaurant and nightclub manager Sunny Ahmad, 24, told the paper he waited 45 minutes at one site, only to find out that rapid test weren’t obtainable there.

Ahmad estimated he’d have to wait another hour to get tested but said: ‘It’s worth it.’

‘I do it twice a week, not because of my job requirement but for my own safety and to protect my family,’ he said.

In Brooklyn, a testing site in Williamsburg had lines around the block at lunchtime, as people checked their position. 

In Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the LabQ Diagnostics mobile testing center at West Fourth Street and Sixth method had run out of rapid tests by mid-afternoon on Thursday. 

Marcos Vizcarrondo told the Post he was due to fly oversea on Saturday, ahead of a wedding on December 26.

He spent the weekend with friends who have since tested positive. 

‘I’ll be so pissed if I can’t travel,’ he said. 

In the Financial District, a man who works in the area was among about 50 people waiting to get tested in a tent run by EZ Test NY at Wall Street and Broadway.

‘I’m traveling for the holidays so I am trying to take a quick test – but this doesn’t really seem quick at all,’ he told The Post.

‘I’m going out of the country and with this new variant that’s out now, I am definitely nervous. 

‘It just never ends.’  

The city is also now recording 53.75 new Covid situations per every 100,000 residents every day, according to official data – a 26 per cent increase from the 42.59 figure being reported only two days ago.

Varma also said that 7.8 per cent of Covid tests in the city were coming back positive on December 12, a two-fold increase from the 3.9 per cent figure recorded only three days earlier.

While it will take around a week to find out how many of these situations are of the Omicron or Delta virus strains, either way, situations are spiking in America’s densest city at a rate not seen before.

Health experts and officials indicate another wave fueled by the Omicron variant is all but certain with a former White House COVID adviser warning it will be the principal strain by January.

‘Doubling every 3 days is a little jarring. 100,000 situations at Christmas would turn into 400,000 situations by New Years’ Eve,’ ex-Senior Advisor to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator Andy Slavitt said early Thursday. 

‘Holiday travel & family gatherings will be like gathering kindling together in a path during a blazing fire.’ 

The ex-Biden official provided what he termed a ‘Covid update’ on Twitter shortly after midnight. 

‘COVID Update: Omicron will peak in the US in the third wave in January according to a consensus of 10 scientists we interviewed,’ he wrote. 

The Omicron variant spreads 70 times faster than Delta, according to a recent study out of Hong Kong. But global health officials also say it’s much milder.  

Hong Kong University researchers found the new variant replicates 10 times slower in the lungs than predecessors – which could be why situations have not been as harsh. 

But the Delta variant is nevertheless the principal Covid strain in the US, accounting for around 97 per cent of sequenced situations. 

Omicron is quickly making up ground, though, with the newly discovered variant jumping seven-fold from making up 0.4 percent of situations to 2.9 percent of case.

There have been 319 confirmed and reported situations of the variant so far, up from 241 yesterday. The flu, which largely vanished last year, is making its reappearance in addition. 

Fauci said on Thursday that not all currently obtainable tests could be useful in detecting the mutated strain.

‘We’re getting preliminary information that not all of the diagnostic tests will be accurate with Omicron. Some, and many of the commonly used ones appear to pick up and detect omicron quite well,’ he said at a virtual event for the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

‘We’re hearing, and we’re in the time of action of doing large screening to determine which of these antigen point of care, rapid tests, nevertheless continue their accuracy of diagnosis. 

‘But clearly there are some that do. We’re trying to find out those that don’t mirror an accurate consequence. And if we do, make sure that those tests are not used to diagnose Omicron.’

Former White House COVID adviser and former Acting Administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Andy Slavitt warned that gathering for the holidays would be like putting ‘kindling’ on a fire

Early data also shows that people who are only fully vaccinated, but have not however received their booster, are nevertheless extremely unprotected to the virus. 

Booster shots have been deemed effective against the variant, though, with both Moderna and Pfizer revealing data in recent days showing their vaccines will cause enormous increases in antibody levels.

Only around 16 percent of Americans have received the additional vaccine measure so far though – as they were not widely obtainable until late November – meaning that more than 80 percent of Americans are at risk from Omicron. 

Fauci on Wednesday said that it was likely the booster worked against the new variant, and they were not currently in search of an Omicron-specific booster. 

‘Our booster vaccine regimens work against Omicron,’ he said. 

‘At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster.’ 

however in a study published on Wednesday by Dr. David Ho and 20 other researchers, the scientists said that Omicron’s ‘extensive’ mutations can ‘greatly compromise’ all major COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca – already neutralizing them. 

The report, the first of its kind and conducted along side the University of Hong Kong, also said that while booster shots provided an additional inner of protection, the variant ‘may nevertheless present a risk’ for those who get the third shot.’   

At a recent White House Covid briefing, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Jacob Lemieux warned that both variants will contribute to the oncoming wave.

‘Our Delta surge is current and, in fact, accelerating. And on top of that, we’re going to add an omicron surge,’ Lemieux said on Tuesday.

‘That’s upsetting, because our hospitals are already filling up. Staff are fatigued.’

Slavitt echoed the worry on Thursday. 

‘Our principal fear now is the ability of our hospitals to meet the overwhelming rush of situations in a short period,’ he said. 

‘Several states are telling me they are cancelling elective procedures and we haven’t already begun to see Omicron situations.’

He called on state and local leaders to act quickly to mitigate the strain on healthcare systems while acknowledging ‘large parts of the public are fatigued, unvaccinated & disbelieving.’ 

‘Colleges, sports leagues and schools are already seeing outbreaks & are temporarily suspending. Offices that can are keeping people at home. As hospitals fill, governors will come to grips with other stronger steps they need to take. Many won’t act until it’s too late,’ Slavitt said.

‘Policy responses are hard when people’s different circumstances suggest they want a targeted response when in a pandemic, only a general response will protect the onslaught to hospitals.’ 

Former Senior Adviser to the COVID Task Force Coordinator under Biden Andy Slavitt posted a dire warning about the rising number of Omicron situations early on Thursday, and urged state and local leaders to act

The combination of a Delta and Omicron wave is a particularly troubling threat as millions of people gear up for holiday travel

But while elected officials are slow to act, businesses, universities and other private groups are leading the way by updating the meaning of ‘fully vaccinated.’

Georgetown, New York University, Smith College and Notre Dame are just some of the schools adding booster requirements for students and staff.

New York City’s Metropolitan Opera will now require all employees and audience members to have received booster vaccinations, the New York Times reported.

The National Football League is also mandating coaches and players be boosted by December 27. 

Whether Delta or Omicron, U.S. is experiencing however another surge of COVID situations during the holiday season. The nation is recording 121,188 new situations every day – a 40 percent increase over the past two weeks. 

Deaths are making a sharp rise in addition, up 34 percent to 1,302 per week. The number of Americans hospitalized with the virus increased over the past 14 days in addition, up 21 percent to 68,079.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that the situation will only worsen in addition. The agency released forecasts on Wednesday night showing that weekly COVID situations will increase by 55 percent to 1.3 million per week – or 185,714 per day – by Christmas. 

It also expected deaths with jump by 73 percent to up to 15,600 per day by early January – or 2,228 deaths per day.

Concern about the Omicron variant was rising worldwide on Thursday. 

France imposed travel restrictions on travelers from Britain, while several European countries strengthened border controls on visitors from other EU states.  

New situations in Britain hit a record high for the second day running on Thursday.

In Sweden, meanwhile, the government announced that they will require visitors from other Nordic nations to have a vaccine pass to cross the border.

In Australia, authorities on Thursday were rushing to to track down hundreds who attended a Taylor rapid album party in Sydney last week that has become a super-spreading event as situations in the country hit a new pandemic high for the second straight day. 

Is THIS why Omicron is spreading so rapidly? Study claims ultra-infectious variant replicates in airways 70 TIMES quicker than Delta… but it struggles when it reaches the lungs in more proof it may be milder

 Reporting by Emily Craig

The Omicron variant multiplies 70 times faster than Delta in the airways, according to a study.

Hong Kong University researchers also found the new variant replicates 10 times slower in the lungs than predecessors.

The finding may explain why the mutant virus is spreading at a ferocious speed, and also lends weight to the theory it is milder than the past variants, something which doctors in South Africa have been claiming for weeks. 

The researchers exposed lung tissue in a laboratory to the original Covid strain that was identified in Wuhan last year, along with the two variants, to compare how the viruses behave after infection.

Omicron replicated faster in the bronchus — tubes connecting the windpipe and lungs — suggesting people with the strain may be more infectious.

Higher viral loads nearer the throat method people are more likely to breathe out viral particles. 

Delta was found to duplicate much quicker in the lungs, where more of the virus can rule to the most harsh illness. 

The finding may be the biological clue behind why doctors insist people infected with the strain only suffer cold-like symptoms.

The graphs show the amount of the coronavirus detected in human bronchial cells (left) and lung cells (right) 24 and 48 hours after coming into contact with the original strain of the virus (green), Delta (orange) and Omicron (blue). There was 70 times more Omicron recorded in the bronchus — the main pipe connecting the airways and lungs — compared to past strains, but 10 times less virus in the lungs when compared to the original version and Delta. Experts from the University of Hong Kong said this indicates the virus is more transmissible but may cause less harsh illness

The image depicts the Omicron variant (shown in red) in infected human bronchus tissue

The image shows human bronchus tissues after Covid infection, with the red arrows pointing to virus particles

But Dr Michael Chan Chi-wai, a public health expert at Hong Kong University and chief investigator, warned speed of replication is only one way of measuring the severity of Covid infection and individuals can nevertheless become unwell with the virus.

And the threat from Omicron ‘is likely to be very meaningful’ and could rule to higher rates of harsh illness and deaths at a population level than other strains by infecting many more people, he said.

The findings add to data, studies and reports from doctors on the ground that the virus spreads rapidly but causes less harsh symptoms.

A real world study in South Africa found there was 29 per cent less severity from Omicron compared to earlier groups, while there were a third fewer hospitalisations.  

It comes as the UK yesterday recorded its highest number of daily Covid situations since the pandemic began, with 78,610 confirmed.

The actual number infected will be many times higher, with the UK Health Security Agency estimating 200,000 people caught Covid on Monday alone.

However, the UKHSA has only reported 15 hospitalisations and one death connected with the variant.

At a Downing Street briefing last night, the chief Minister urged Britons to extent back their Christmas plans and only socialise when necessary in a bid to control the spread.

Experts have warned that already if the virus is much milder, record numbers will become infected in the coming weeks which could rule to more hospitalisations than last winter. 

The Hong Kong researchers used discarded lung tissue taken during operations to treat lung conditions. 

Their results, which have not been published in complete or peer-reviewed, show that 24 hours after becoming infected with Omicron, the virus replicated at a rate 70 times higher than Delta and the Wuhan strain in the bronchus.

But in the lungs, it replicated less efficiently – 10 times slower – than the original virus. This may explain why Omicron is thought to cause less harsh disease. 

Dr Chan said: ‘It is important to observe that the severity of disease in humans is not determined only by virus replication but also by the great number immune response to the infection.

‘It is also noted that, by infecting many more people, a very infectious virus may cause more harsh disease and death already though the virus itself may be less pathogenic.

‘consequently, taken together with our recent studies showing that the Omicron variant can slightly escape immunity from vaccines and past infection, the overall threat from Omicron variant is likely to be very meaningful.’

Dr Muge Cevik, an infectious diseases expert at the University of St Andrews, said on Twitter: ‘For those asking whether this is good/bad news, simple answer: I don’t know. 

‘While Omicron may infect the lung cells less efficiently, a higher viral load may worsen immune response.

‘The only thing I am sure of is that Omicron will spread so quickly by the population, making it likely impossible to contain already with the most stringent measures and giving us very little time over the next few weeks. So get your vaccines and boosters.’

A record 26,976 infections were detected over the last 24 hours in South Africa, surging past the past high of 26,485 situations from early July when Delta was running rampant

It also marked a 36 per cent rise on last Wednesday, and situations rose week-on-week in every province except the epicentre Gauteng (red line) where the sudden increase may be peaking

Dr Meaghan Kall, an epidemiologist at the UKHSA, yesterday tweeted: ‘I keep optimistic about Omicron being milder.’

She said up to eight in 10 people in hospital wards and care homes were testing positive for the strain — an infection rate not seen since the vaccines were rolled out a year ago.

But most are ‘asymptomatic and mild infections’, Dr Kall said.

‘I am 100 per cent certain that large-extent immunity conferred by vaccines or infection will excursion down the rates of harsh disease compared to past variants,’ she additional.

It comes as millions of Britons have axed their festive plans so they can see family on Christmas Day.

The chief Minister and Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, triggered a wave of pub and restaurant cancellations by urging the country only to socialise if necessary – and not in large groups or with strangers.

People have started voluntarily self-isolating in a bid to avoid having to isolate on December 25 if they test positive for Covid.

Professor Whitty said that a rise in Omicron hospitalisations is ‘nailed on’ after situations hit a record high yesterday, telling a televised No 10 press briefing: ‘I think that what most people are doing is – and I would think this seems very sensible – is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to project those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them.’

He also rubbished a major real-world study from South Africa which suggested that the variant was milder, insisting Omicron ‘is going to be a problem’. 

And after weeks of refusing to let in Christmas plans could be under threat, Mr Johnson told the country to cut back on Christmas partying and ‘think carefully’ before going out during the festive season. 


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