New epidemics in the world, the rise of the Delta variant in the United States; and further research into vaccine effectiveness. Here’s what you need to know:
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Delta variant stimulates new epidemics around the world
From Indonesia to Bangladesh, South Korea to Israel, new outbreaks appear around the world thanks to the proliferation of the highly contagious Delta variant. The rapid spread of the strain has has pushed many countries to re-impose travel restrictions or restore locks. In Australia, for example, almost half of the population is now shelter at home like the country contact tracing program and lagging vaccination efforts struggle to cope with epidemics.
In Europe, new cases rose 10% in one week after two months of decline, and the WHO announced this week that the the region is at risk a new wave of infections. As a result, Portugal nighttime curfews reintroduced in several large cities. Although the EU’s Covid-19 travel certificate was officially launched on Thursday, officials fear this summer may not be a godsend for the tourism industry that many hoped for.
White House strategizes as Delta variant cases increase in US
In the United States, the Delta variant has now been detected in the 50 states and Washington, DC. The CDC also reported on Thursday that the cases increased by 10 percent this week due to a combination of late vaccinations in parts of the country and the more transmissible mutation, which is likely to become the dominant strain in the country in the coming weeks. The White House announced this week that it will deploy Covid-19 response teams across the country, focusing on areas with lower vaccination rates and higher risk of epidemics.
Amid the boom of the Delta variant, the CDC doubled on his advice on masks this week, saying fully vaccinated people are immune to variants and do not need to wear masks except in pre-designated settings. That said, some places are re-examining their mask guidelines, including Los Angeles County, which recommended that everyone mask themselves indoors, whether or not they received their injections.
Countries are experimenting with new vaccination strategies as new research emerges
New research suggests mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna may produce lasting immunity against existing variants, especially in people who have had the virus before, even if the virus changes significantly over time. Johnson & johnson also said this week that his shot is still effective in protecting against the Delta variant.
Meanwhile, the UK has said it is preparing for deliver booster injections in the fall in case people need extra protection against new variants, making it one of the first governments to do so. The plan is to start with people over 70 and those who are medically vulnerable, and potentially distribute boosters and flu shots at the same time. And in Germany, authorities are now urging people to mix Covid-19 vaccines. The country’s Standing Committee on Immunization said Thursday that people who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should receive an mRNA vaccine for their second dose.
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Some Americans have long resisted government interference in health matters, and the pandemic has only accelerated the trend. As vocal opponents lined up on the far right to oppose masks and vaccines, a scientist used a similar tactic to peddle unregulated, for-profit stem cell treatments.
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How do scientists who work with bats navigate the possibility of backfire?
It is likely that SARS-CoV-2 emerged from bats in China before jumping on another animal and then on humans. But now people run the risk of spread of the virus in animal populations, a phenomenon called overflow. To avoid this, the US Geological Survey and the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued guidelines for biologists who work with bats, suggesting they wear protective gear, including masks. The likelihood of scientists and wildlife managers transmitting the coronavirus to bats is relatively low, but North American bat populations in particular have been devastated by the disease in recent years. Now it’s humans turn to protect them.
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