covid:-sweden-‘should-have-clamped-down-harder’-as-pandemic-hit;-us-set-to-ease-mask-guidelines-–-as-it-happened

Sweden ‘should have clamped down harder as Covid hit’

Sweden’s no-lockdown strategy to deal with Covid was broadly correct but early measures should have been more rigorous and intrusive, a government-appointed commission said on Friday in its final report on the country’s pandemic response.

Sweden polarised opinion at home and abroad with its handling of the pandemic, opting against the lockdowns implemented by many countries and adopting a largely voluntary approach of promoting social distancing and good hygiene.

“The government should have assumed leadership of all aspects of crisis management from the outset,” the commission said in the report, adding that the government had too one-sided a dependence on assessments made by the Public Health Agency.

“In February-March 2020, Sweden should have opted for more rigorous and intrusive disease prevention and control measures.”

People enjoy the spring weather at an outdoor restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, 26 April 2020.
People enjoy the spring weather at an outdoor restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, 26 April 2020. Photograph: Jessica Gow/EPA

The estimated range of England’s Covid reproduction R number is between 0.7 and 1.0, roughly steady compared with the previous week’s range of 0.8 to 1.0, the UK Health Security Agency said on Friday.

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An R number between 0.7 and 1.0 means that for every 10 people infected, they will on average infect between 7 and 10 other people.

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The daily growth of infections was steady, estimated between -4% to -1%.

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Here is a brief round-up of the top Covid stories from the day so far:

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  • Sweden’s no-lockdown strategy to deal with Covid was broadly correct but early measures should have been more rigorous and intrusive, a government-appointed commission said on Friday in its final report on the country’s pandemic response.
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  • Germany does not have leeway to ease Covid restrictions more quickly, and Germans should not think that the pandemic is over as the number of new daily infections is still very high, the German health minister,, Karl Lauterbach, said on Friday.
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  • In the US, mask-wearing guidelines will be relaxed on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter. It means most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.
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  • At least 5.2 million children around the world have lost a parent, grandparent or family member who helped care for them to Covid, according to a new study.
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  • In the UK, almost 5 million Covid shots have been thrown away, according to an official report.
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  • The UK’s data watchdog has reprimanded the Scottish government and NHS National Services Scotland over their failure to inform people how their personal information is used by the NHS Scotland Covid Status app.
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  • Emergency room visits for eating disorders among 12- to 17-year-old girls doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a troubling existing trend that is likely to have been worsened by the stress of living through the prolonged crisis.
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  • China reported its highest daily count of Covid cases arriving from outside the mainland in nearly two years, with infections mostly from Hong Kong.
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  • Hong Kong has contracted the mainland firm China State Construction International Holdings Ltd to build eight isolation and treatment facilities to help the global financial hub fight a worsening Covid outbreak, its government said.
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Sweden’s no-lockdown strategy to deal with Covid was broadly correct but early measures should have been more rigorous and intrusive, a government-appointed commission said on Friday in its final report on the country’s pandemic response.

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Sweden polarised opinion at home and abroad with its handling of the pandemic, opting against the lockdowns implemented by many countries and adopting a largely voluntary approach of promoting social distancing and good hygiene.

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“The government should have assumed leadership of all aspects of crisis management from the outset,” the commission said in the report, adding that the government had too one-sided a dependence on assessments made by the Public Health Agency.

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“In February-March 2020, Sweden should have opted for more rigorous and intrusive disease prevention and control measures.”

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‘should have clamped down harder as Covid hit'”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Fri 25 Feb 2022 15.00 GMT”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Fri 25 Feb 2022 07.43 GMT”},{“id”:”621883da8f0814262e7cad59″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

Hello. Tom Ambrose here for the next few hours, bringing you all the latest Covid news from around the world as it happens.

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We start with the news that, in the United States, mask-wearing guidelines will be relaxed on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter.

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It means most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at Covid case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community, AP reported.

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Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission — roughly 95% of US counties, according to the latest data.

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The new metrics will still consider caseloads, but also take into account hospitalisations and local hospital capacity, which have been markedly improved during the emergence of the Omicron variant.

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That strain is highly transmissible, but indications are that it is less severe than earlier strains, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.

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The new policy comes as the Biden administration moves to shift its focus to preventing serious illness and death from Covid, rather than all instances of infection, as part of a strategy adjustment for a new “phase” in the response as the virus becomes endemic.

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Key events

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That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, and indeed from the global Covid live blog for today. Thanks for following along.

Keep across all the latest coronavirus news here. Bye for now.

Covid R number in England roughly steady at 0.7-1.0

The estimated range of England’s Covid reproduction R number is between 0.7 and 1.0, roughly steady compared with the previous week’s range of 0.8 to 1.0, the UK Health Security Agency said on Friday.

An R number between 0.7 and 1.0 means that for every 10 people infected, they will on average infect between 7 and 10 other people.

The daily growth of infections was steady, estimated between -4% to -1%.

Angela Giuffrida

Perched on a rock surrounded by a vast nature reserve, the hilltop hamlet of Trevinano sent tremors across the Lazio region when it was announced this month that it and its 142 residents were in line for €20m (£16.73m) from a Covid recovery fund to save small villages on the verge of extinction – equal to a whopping €140,845 per resident.

“This initiative is generating a lot of envy and bad feeling,” said Alessandra Terrosi, the mayor of Trevinano, who has the responsibility for spending the millions before 2026, when the funding programme ends.

The hamlet’s good fortune has fuelled rancour among its neighbours who missed out, raised questions over how efficiently Italy will invest some of the €191bn coming its way from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund and had critics asking if €20m is just too much money for one small village.

Trevinano was pitted against 14 other candidates in Lazio, including the region’s better-known gem, the fortress-like Civita di Bagnoregio, for a slice of the €420m fund.

Summary

Here is a brief round-up of the top Covid stories from the day so far:

  • Sweden’s no-lockdown strategy to deal with Covid was broadly correct but early measures should have been more rigorous and intrusive, a government-appointed commission said on Friday in its final report on the country’s pandemic response.
  • Germany does not have leeway to ease Covid restrictions more quickly, and Germans should not think that the pandemic is over as the number of new daily infections is still very high, the German health minister,, Karl Lauterbach, said on Friday.
  • In the US, mask-wearing guidelines will be relaxed on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter. It means most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.
  • At least 5.2 million children around the world have lost a parent, grandparent or family member who helped care for them to Covid, according to a new study.
  • In the UK, almost 5 million Covid shots have been thrown away, according to an official report.
  • The UK’s data watchdog has reprimanded the Scottish government and NHS National Services Scotland over their failure to inform people how their personal information is used by the NHS Scotland Covid Status app.
  • Emergency room visits for eating disorders among 12- to 17-year-old girls doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a troubling existing trend that is likely to have been worsened by the stress of living through the prolonged crisis.
  • China reported its highest daily count of Covid cases arriving from outside the mainland in nearly two years, with infections mostly from Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong has contracted the mainland firm China State Construction International Holdings Ltd to build eight isolation and treatment facilities to help the global financial hub fight a worsening Covid outbreak, its government said.

At least 5.2 million children around the world have lost a parent, grandparent or family member who helped care for them to Covid, according to a new study.

The research looked at coronavirus mortality data across 21 countries from the start of the pandemic between March 2020 and October 2021.

The number of children affected rose by 90% from the end of April 2020 to the end of October 2021, reports CNN.

Sweden ‘should have clamped down harder as Covid hit’

Sweden’s no-lockdown strategy to deal with Covid was broadly correct but early measures should have been more rigorous and intrusive, a government-appointed commission said on Friday in its final report on the country’s pandemic response.

Sweden polarised opinion at home and abroad with its handling of the pandemic, opting against the lockdowns implemented by many countries and adopting a largely voluntary approach of promoting social distancing and good hygiene.

“The government should have assumed leadership of all aspects of crisis management from the outset,” the commission said in the report, adding that the government had too one-sided a dependence on assessments made by the Public Health Agency.

“In February-March 2020, Sweden should have opted for more rigorous and intrusive disease prevention and control measures.”

People enjoy the spring weather at an outdoor restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, 26 April 2020.
People enjoy the spring weather at an outdoor restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, 26 April 2020. Photograph: Jessica Gow/EPA

In the UK, almost 5m Covid shots have been thrown away, according to an official report.

The Daily Telegraph reported this morning that AstraZeneca vaccines were the most likely to be wasted.

It estimates that the cost of the wasted jabs could be as much as £70.5m, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

The Telegraph reported:

An evaluation by the NAO of the Government’s vaccination programme up to the end of October 2021 found it “met stretching and unprecedented targets”.

Some 85 per cent of over-18s in England had received two doses of a Covid-19 jab by the end of October. Evidence shows the programme “saved lives and reduced the incidence of serious illness and hospitalisation”, the report said.

But it also found some 4.7 million vaccine doses were wasted in England during the rollout, including 1.9 million AstraZeneca jabs.

A vial of Covid-19 vaccine.
A vial of Covid-19 vaccine. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

It’s nearly two years since the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced the first national Covid lockdown and, for many Britons, life feels close to normal.

As of Thursday, there are no longer any restrictions in England – no legal requirement to wear masks or to self-isolate after a positive Covid test. But have our lives changed in other ways that will outlive the pandemic? Have our habits changed for good?

Germany does not have leeway to ease Covid restrictions more quickly, and Germans should not think that the pandemic is over as the number of new daily infections is still very high, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Friday.

“We have absolutely no scope for an accelerated opening,” Lauterbach said, adding that it was an unacceptable situation that COVID-19 deaths were between 200 and 300 every day.

Germany reported 210,743 new infections on Friday, with the 7-day incidence rate slightly dropping to 1,259.5 infections per 100,000 people, from 1,265 a day earlier.

The UK’s data watchdog has reprimanded the Scottish Government and NHS National Services Scotland over their failure to inform people how their personal information is used by the NHS Scotland Covid Status app.

The app is one method people can use to demonstrate their vaccination status for mandatory Covid status checks that are still in place for large events and nightclubs, though the vaccine passport scheme will end on Monday.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a reprimand to both bodies over their initial failure to provide adequate privacy information within the NHS Scotland Covid Status app when it launched to explain how people’s information is being used.

It said there has also been an ongoing failure to provide concise privacy information so that the average person can realistically understand how the NHS Scotland Covid Status app is using their information.

The ICO said it now expects the Scottish Government and NHS National Services Scotland to act swiftly on the findings and that if they fail to take action it will consider whether further regulatory action is required.

Melody Schreiber

Emergency room visits for eating disorders among 12- to 17-year-old girls doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a troubling existing trend that was likely worsened by the stress of living through the prolonged crisis.

“We are seeing such a high volume of patients in need of eating disorder care as well as worsening severity,” said Tracy Richmond, a physician and the director of the eating disorder program at Boston Children’s Hospital, who was not involved in the CDC study.

“It feels really clear for those of us who take care of teenagers that there is an absolute second pandemic of mental health needs in adolescents.”

After a decade of increasing concern, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national mental health emergency among children and teens in 2021, and the US surgeon general warned in December of a youth mental health crisis that began building before the pandemic.

In 2020, kids actually made fewer visits to emergency departments than the year before – a decline of 21%, the CDC report found. In 2021, there was a decrease of 8% compared to 2019.

But the reason for those visits changed dramatically during the early months of the pandemic, with the proportion of emergency visits for mental health among kids rising by 24% in 5- to 11-year-olds and 31% in 12- to 17-year-old, as compared with the year before.

China reported its highest daily count of Covid cases arriving from outside the mainland in nearly two years, with infections mostly from Hong Kong.

The mainland detected a total of 142 imported cases with confirmed symptoms for Thursday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Friday.

It marks the highest imported caseload since the authority began classifying domestically transmitted cases and infected travellers from outside the mainland separately, in March 2020.

More than 100 imported cases came from Hong Kong, with 47 reported in the southern city of Shenzhen and 51 in the eastern municipality of Shanghai, local health authorities’ bulletins showed. The capital Beijing also detected seven symptomatic cases arriving from Hong Kong, Reuters reported.

Mainland China requires most general travellers arriving from outside to be quarantined for at least 14 days, and cities have varying requirements afterwards before they can travel freely.

Hong Kong has contracted mainland firm China State Construction International Holdings Ltd to build eight isolation and treatment facilities to help the global financial hub fight a worsening Covid outbreak, its government said.

The temporary facilities, with a combined capacity of 50,000 beds, will be spread across Hong Kong, including on private land lent for free by developers.

The move follows promises of “staunch support” from mainland Chinese authorities, with city leader Carrie Lam doubling down on the official goal of bringing infections down to zero, Reuters reported.

Authorities are expected to report a new record of about 10,000 confirmed infections over the past 24 hours, up from Thursday’s 8,798, broadcaster TVB reported, citing an unidentified source. University of Hong Kong researchers predict new infections could peak at 180,000 a day next month.

A man wearing a face mask walks across a street In Causeway Bay, a shopping district of Hong Kong.
A man wearing a face mask walks across a street In Causeway Bay, a shopping district of Hong Kong. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

“The target is to maximise the site utilisation and complete the relevant works as soon as possible, equipping Hong Kong for the fight against the epidemic,” the government said in a statement late on Thursday.

Sun Hung Kai Properties, New World Development and Henderson Land Development are among the developers that contributed to the scheme.

US to ease face mask guidelines

Hello. Tom Ambrose here for the next few hours, bringing you all the latest Covid news from around the world as it happens.

We start with the news that, in the United States, mask-wearing guidelines will be relaxed on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter.

It means most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at Covid case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community, AP reported.

Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission — roughly 95% of US counties, according to the latest data.

The new metrics will still consider caseloads, but also take into account hospitalisations and local hospital capacity, which have been markedly improved during the emergence of the Omicron variant.

A person wearing a face mask rides the subway in New York City.
A person wearing a face mask rides the subway in New York City. Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/REX/Shutterstock

That strain is highly transmissible, but indications are that it is less severe than earlier strains, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.

The new policy comes as the Biden administration moves to shift its focus to preventing serious illness and death from Covid, rather than all instances of infection, as part of a strategy adjustment for a new “phase” in the response as the virus becomes endemic.

 

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