WHO Warns That Shorter Quarantines Are Trade-Off as Omicron Surges

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US and other governments see hospitalization lag behind infections, prompting many to ease self-isolation rules

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At a White House briefing on Wednesday, Rochelle Valensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said while caseloads have risen, hospitalizations and deaths have remained relatively low. The Biden administration’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, said all indications suggest that Omicron is less severe than the delta version and that vaccine booster shots will be critical to America’s approach to tackling a surge in infections.

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“We must remember that hospitalizations and deaths are indicators,” he said. “However, the pattern and disparity between cases and hospitalizations strongly suggest that the proportion of hospitalizations will be lower when the situation is clear.”

Mr Fauci also said that a second booster shot may be needed to increase immunity levels, but there is not yet enough data to determine the durability of the protection provided by the current round of boosters.

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Covid-19 cases in the US have continued to climb, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, setting a fresh pandemic record of 300,887 cases a day on Wednesday, an average of seven days.

The increase in cases post-Christmas pushed the average seven days ahead from the previous peak of 251,989 on January 11, 2021, although there was less testing during the earlier stages of the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, the average hospitalization for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 was 77,840, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. This is an increase of about 14% over the past two weeks.

The seven-day average of hospitalizations, though rising, is below the pandemic peak of 137,510 on January 10, 2021, and the smaller peak of 102,967 on September 4, 2021, during the delta surge.

Other countries, including France and the UK, have also looked past record-high numbers of new infections requiring hospitalization in recent days, prompting some to require periods of self-isolation for those infected or exposed to the virus. Re-evaluation has been driven to reduce disruption to health care and others. key area. Infection from the Omicron version led to staff absenteeism causing thousands of flights to be canceled over the Christmas weekend, while officials in the US and elsewhere have expressed concerns about how the quarantine is affecting hospital staffing levels.

The WHO, however, said on Wednesday that there is a risk that some people will develop and spread the disease after the short quarantine period ends. “So it’s a trade-off between being perfect in the science and what you try to do, but then there can be minimal disruption to your economy and society,” said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan. “And governments are struggling to find that balance.”

Spain said on Wednesday it would reduce the quarantine period for people who have tested positive for Covid-19, which has reached a record high level of infections, from 10 to seven days. Italy said it would drop self-isolation requirements for those who came into contact with people who tested positive, provided they have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from infection.

The CDC advised this week that infected people who are asymptomatic can leave isolation after five days and that masks should be worn for the next five days when around other people; People who have been vaccinated and have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask for 10 days and try to get tested five days after exposure.

In South Africa, where the omicron variant was first detected, data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases stated that the average daily hospital admissions in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, were 20% in the two weeks to December 25, compared to 20%. fell over. two weeks ago. On a weekly basis, other provinces also reported declines, with average daily admissions down about 40%.

Two Doses of Johnson & Johnson‘s

COVID-19 vaccine reduced hospitalizations from the Omicron variant by up to 85%, Another South African study found it. The paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, indicated that there was a significant increase in protection in the weeks and months after receiving the booster – a significant finding because many African countries rely on the J&J vaccine for their vaccination campaigns.

Write James Hookway at [email protected]

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