The Northern Ireland Executive has said its priority remains keeping children and young people in school as it issued an update on the current Covid-19 situation.
In a joint statement on Thursday afternoon, Stormont ministers said that while no cases of the Omicron variant have yet been confirmed here, the situation is likely to change in the coming days.
They said: “Today we received an update from our medical and scientific advisers on the latest Covid-19 situation and, in particular, the emergence of the Omicron variant.
“The emergence of this new strain of the virus is a serious and concerning development worldwide. And while there is no need for alarm, it is vitally important that everyone redoubles their efforts to drive infection rates down.
“The evidence on the new variant is being very closely monitored. And our public health experts will continue to liaise with colleagues in other jurisdictions as the situation develops globally and locally.
“No cases of the Omicron variant have yet been confirmed here, but that situation is likely to change in the coming days. The public will be kept informed and health protection measures will be actioned as appropriate.”
Urging people to use this time wisely to drive Covid infection rates down, the Executive statement added: “It is still unclear whether the clinical impact of this new coronavirus variant will be more serious so it is essential that we take preventative action now.
“We are grateful to the public for how they have responded so far. People’s actions are already having an impact and we thank everyone for the steps they are taking.
“The effectiveness of the booster vaccination programme is evidenced in reduced hospital admissions; the large number of people coming forward for first dose vaccine in recent weeks will make a real difference; and the collective effort to adhere to the public health advice has helped in reducing the number of cases.
“We know what works. And as we approach Christmas, it is vital that we all continue to work together to keep our society open, protect our health service and save lives.”
We urge everyone to remain vigilant and play your part in slowing the spread of the virus by following these simple steps:
- Get first and second vaccine doses, and get your booster when eligible- up to date information is available at nidirect.gov.uk/covidvaccine;
- Limit your social contacts;
- Meet outdoors when possible;
- If meeting indoors, make sure rooms are well-ventilated;
- Wear a face covering in crowded or indoor settings;
- Work from home if possible;
- Practise good hand and respiratory hygiene;
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate immediately and get a PCR test as soon as possible.
“We thank everyone for continuing to make safer choices that will help to protect you, your family and our society.”
Earlier this week, teaching unions called for a ‘circuit breaker’ to be introduced over the Christmas period to control the spread of Covid-19 infection in Northern Ireland’s schools.
In response, Stormont said today: “Our priority remains keeping our children and young people in school.
“We recognise the challenges being faced across all our educational settings and the work that teachers and all staff are doing at this difficult time to support young people.
“We will continue to work with all concerned to keep our schools open and safe.”
Have your say on Vaccine Passports below, or click here.
For the latest breaking news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter here.
Omicron subvariant appears more contagious, but not more severe, Denmark says
The BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which is dominant in Denmark, appears more contagious than the more common BA.1 sub-lineage, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Wednesday in a national address.
“There is no evidence that the BA.2 variant causes more disease, but it must be more contagious,” Heunicke told a news conference.
The BA.1 lineage currently accounts for 98% of all cases globally but in Denmark has been pushed aside by BA.2, which became the dominant strain in the second week of January.
The UK Health Security Agency has designated BA.2 a variant under investigation, saying it could have a growth advantage.
Preliminary calculations suggest BA.2 could be 1.5 times more infectious than BA.1, Denmark’s top infectious disease authority, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), said in a note on Wednesday.
However, an initial analysis by the institute showed no difference in the risk of hospitalisation for BA.2 compared to BA.1.
“There is some indication that it is more contagious, especially for the unvaccinated, but that it can also infect people who have been vaccinated to a greater extent,” SSI’s technical director Tyra Grove Krause said at the briefing.
This could mean the peak of Denmark’s epidemic will extend a bit further into February than previously forecast, Krause said.
BA.2 cases have also been registered in Britain, Sweden and Norway, but to a much lesser extent than in Denmark.
Denmark on Wednesday announced plans to scrap the last of its COVID-19 restrictions by Feb 1, the latest country in Europe to do so despite record high daily infection numbers.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Stine Jacobsen;Editing by Alison Williams, Kirsten Donovan)
Pfizer, Moderna shots safe during in vitro fertilization; healthy gut bacteria may help prevent long COVID
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.
mRNA vaccines safe during in vitro fertilization
COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA technology do not affect fertility outcomes during in-vitro fertilization (IVF), researchers have found.
They compared rates of fertilization, pregnancy, and early miscarriage in IVF patients who had received two doses of the vaccines from Pfizer with BioNTech or ModernaO> with those in unvaccinated patients. The 222 vaccinated and 983 unvaccinated patients who underwent ovarian stimulation – medical treatment to stimulate development of eggs – had similar rates of eggs retrieved, fertilization, and embryos with normal numbers of chromosomes. The 214 vaccinated and 733 unvaccinated patients who underwent frozen-thawed embryo transfer – where their eggs were collected from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a laboratory, creating embryos that were frozen and later thawed and transferred to the womb – had similar rates of pregnancy and early pregnancy loss, according to a report published on Tuesday in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
“Our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccination in women who are trying to conceive,” the researchers concluded.
Healthy gut bacteria may protect during COVID
The bacteria living in your small intestine may contribute to the risk for long COVID after infection with SARS-CoV-2, new findings suggest.
Researchers analyzed the “gut microbiome” in 116 COVID-19 patients in Hong Kong in 2020, when regulations required that every infected person be hospitalized. More than 80% were mildly or moderately ill, but more than 75% had at least one persistent symptom. After six months, the most common symptoms were fatigue (reported by 31%), poor memory (28%), hair loss (22%), anxiety (21%) and sleep disturbances (21%), according to a report published on Tuesday in Gut. Analyses of stool samples obtained at hospital admission and over the succeeding months showed long COVID patients “had a less diverse and less abundant microbiome,” said Siew C. Ng of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Patients who didn’t develop long COVID had a gut microbiome similar to that of people without COVID-19.”
Lack of “friendly” immunity-boosting Bifidobacteria species was strongly associated with persistent respiratory symptoms, Ng noted. While the study cannot prove that healthy gut organisms prevent long COVID, the findings suggest “maintaining a healthy and balanced gut microbiota via diet, avoidance of antibiotics if possible, exercise and supplementing with depleted bacteria species including Bifidobacteria” might be helpful, she said.
New PCR test can identify variants
A new type of PCR test can quickly tell which variant of the coronavirus is causing infection, helping doctors choose the most effective antibody treatments, researchers said.
Most current PCR tests can check broadly for the presence of the virus but cannot identify specific variants. The new test uses special “probes” – fluorescently labeled molecules – called “sloppy molecular beacons” that glow in different colors when they attach themselves to DNA or RNA in the virus. When the sample from the patient is heated, the probes fall off their DNA or RNA targets and their color disappears. They fall off at different temperatures depending on the DNA or RNA sequence they were bound to. Because the variants each have some unique sequences, they can be identified based on the pattern of color changes at each temperature, explained Dr. David Alland of \?
“We have already performed a clinical study which showed that the assay was 100% sensitive and 100% specific for identifying variants of concern including Delta and Omicron,” Alland said. “We are asking the N.J. Dept of Health to clear our test” so that New Jersey labs can use it, he added. A typical hospital molecular laboratory would be able to perform it, his team reported on Friday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
U.S. study finds slight myocarditis risk with mRNA vaccines
There is a small but increased risk for heart muscle inflammation, or myocarditis, following receipt of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found.
The 1,626 cases documented in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System from December 2020 through August 2021 “exceeded the expected rates,” the researchers reported on Tuesday in JAMA. Overall, 73% of reported cases were in people under age 30, and 82% were males. The highest rates were found among adolescent and young adult males. For every million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, there were roughly 71 cases of myocarditis in males ages 12 to 15 and 106 cases in males ages 16 or 17. In young men ages 18 to 24, the rate per million doses was roughly 52 with the Pfizer shots and 56 after Moderna shots. About 96% of patients with myocarditis were hospitalized. In 87%, symptoms were gone by the time they were discharged. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were the most common treatment.
“This risk should be considered within the context of the significant benefits of COVID-19 vaccination in preventing COVID-19 infection and potential serious complications,” said a spokesperson for the authors, who noted that COVID-19 itself confers a 16-times higher risk for myocarditis. “The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination continue to outweigh any potential risks.”
Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
A third of airline pilots still not flying as pandemic drags on -survey
More than one-third of airline pilots are still not flying as the pandemic continues to take its toll on aviation globally, according to a new survey, though the situation has improved from a year earlier when the majority were grounded.
A poll of more than 1700 pilots by UK-based GOOSE Recruitment and industry publication FlightGlobal, released on Wednesday, found 62% globally were employed and currently flying, up from 43% a year earlier.
The proportion of unemployed pilots fell from 30% to 20%, while 6% were on furlough, compared with 17% previously as air traffic began to bounce back from 2020 lows.
But in the Asia-Pacific region, the worst-hit globally by a drop in international travel due to tough border restrictions, the proportion of those unemployed rose from 23% to 25%. The region also had the lowest number that were employed flying at 53%.
“We have … seen some expatriates return home from the region due to concerns over quarantine or being stuck for long periods away from friends and family,” the report on the survey said.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, a large expatriate employer in Asia, has lost hundreds of pilots through the closure of its Cathay Dragon regional arm as well as almost all of its overseas bases during the pandemic.
Pilot attrition at Cathay has also been rising amid strict layover rules that leave crew members locked https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/locked-hotels-hong-kongs-covid-19-rules-take-mental-toll-cathay-pilots-2021-11-26 in hotels when they are not flying.
Of the pilots still flying globally, 61% told the survey they were concerned about their job security.
“It appears only Northern America is back to post-COVID passenger numbers,” said an unnamed captain flying in the Middle East and Africa. “The rest of the world, especially developing nations, are still struggling to get vaccines, and are still not travelling.”
(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by David Gregorio)
Spotify removing Neil Young’s music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum
YouTube permanently bans Fox News host Dan Bongino
Dollar finds buyers as Fed flags hikes
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Health8 hours ago
Sims: Proof of vaccination for kids may move needle on lagging rates – London Free Press (Blogs)
Business20 hours ago
Cybertrucks, new factories in focus as Tesla set to report record earnings
Sports20 hours ago
Bonds and Clemens miss out on Hall of Fame, leaving baseball world in disbelief – Sportsnet.ca
Investment7 hours ago
Crypto money laundering rises 30% in 2021 -Chainalysis
Business21 hours ago
Victoria’s Secret sells stake in China business for $45 million
News5 hours ago
The Best Casino Restaurants in Canada
Sports18 hours ago
Denis Shapovalov loses it on Aussie Open umpire: 'You guys are all corrupt' – Yahoo Canada Sports
Media18 hours ago
NDP MPs criticized for ‘terrible’ social media comments on Ukraine-Russia crisis – Global News