Dec 24 (Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Singapore confirms first case of new coronavirus variant
Singapore confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus variant found in the United Kingdom, while 11 other people who were already in quarantine returned preliminarily positive results for the new strain.
Singapore has been conducting viral genomic sequencing for recently arrived confirmed COVID-19 cases from Europe. The patient with the new variant came to Singapore from the UK on Dec. 6, had been quarantined on arrival and tested positive on Dec. 8.
All her close contacts had been placed in quarantine, and had tested negative at the end of their quarantine period. The health ministry said it had been able to ringfence the case so that there was no further transmission.
Early success leaves South Korea scrambling
After a summer of touting South Korea’s approach as a model for the world, officials acknowledge the success of earlier efforts helped fuel over-confidence that left them straining to contain a third wave and scrambling to defend a cautious vaccine timeline.
Frontline fighters in South Korea’s war against the virus outlined what they say were critical mistakes by the government, including not investing in enough manpower and training for the tracing programme, not mobilising private hospitals fast enough to free up more beds, indecisive social distancing policies, and adopting a slow approach to securing and rolling out vaccines.
Lim Seung-kwan, chief of Gyeonggi Province’s COVID-19 emergency response task force, said it was time to consider dropping mass tracing in favour of more targeted epidemiological surveys that seek to better understand specific patterns of the virus’ spread while freeing up trained medical personnel to provide patient care.
U.S. vaccine rollout slow, could hit snags
Millions of COVID-19 vaccines are sitting unused in U.S. hospitals and elsewhere a week into the massive inoculation campaign, putting the government’s target for 20 million vaccinations this month in doubt. That’s nine days to give out nearly 19 million shots or over 2 million people vaccinated a day including on Christmas Day.
Hospitals said the first COVID-19 vaccinations started slowly last Monday as they navigated preparing the previously frozen shots for use, finding employees to run the vaccination clinics, and ensuring proper social distancing both before and after vaccination. Some said they did only about 100 shots the first day.
Beginning in January or February, Americans employed in a range of industries will be eligible for inoculation, provided they are essential frontline workers. The absence of a plan to verify vaccine candidates’ jobs and confusion over who qualifies as essential raise the risks of fraud and disorganization.
COVID-19 death rates improving in U.S. hospitals
The U.S. health care system is getting better at caring for COVID-19 patients, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Tuesday.
When researchers analyzed insurance claims of COVID-19 patients in nearly 400 hospitals, they found the average death rate had fallen to 9.3% in the May-June period, from 16.6% in the January-April period.
“The strongest determinant of improvements in hospital-level outcome was a decline in community rates of infection,” the researchers wrote, adding that the association between community COVID-19 case loads and death rates “suggests hospitals do worse when they are burdened with cases and is consistent with imperatives to flatten the curve.” — REUTERS
(Compiled by Karishma Singh; editing by Richard Pullin)