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The United Kingdom is experiencing the fastest growth in the number of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic started. But according to the government, new restrictions, including a lockdown, are off the table – at least for now.
“We have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday. “We can keep our schools and businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”
While Brits are currently required to wear face masks in public spaces indoors and advised to work from home where possible, Johnson made it clear he wants no more curbs to be introduced.
He is not the only one.
Some countries, such as the Netherlands and Austria, have introduced new lockdowns in light of rising cases, but many more are not doing so.
Italy, France, Greece and Spain all reported record numbers of new infections in recent days, yet unlike during previous infection peaks, they are not bringing back strict lockdowns.
In Germany, where cases are also rising quickly, the government indicated it wants to avoid more closures, focusing instead on getting as many people as possible vaccinated.
The approach appears based on what we know so far about the Omicron variant that is now dominant in the United States and much of Europe. Research suggests the variant is causing milder disease and that vaccination gives people high level of protection, especially after a booster dose.
In the US, cases are also rising rapidly, with the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 surpassing 100,000 for the first time in nearly four months, according to the latest data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
But addressing the nation on Tuesday, President Joe Biden made no mention of new restrictions, highlighting instead the tools the US has in its battle against the virus and pleading with Americans to “please take advantage of what we already have.”
“And if you’re unvaccinated, you have some reason as to be alarmed. Many of you will experience severe illness if you get Covid-19 if you’re not vaccinated. Some will die – needlessly die,” he added.
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said the fact that vaccines are available and effective has changed the calculations around lockdowns.
“It’s unreasonable to ask vaccinated people to refrain from pre-pandemic activities. After all, the individual risk to them is low, and there is a steep price to keeping students out of school, shuttering restaurants and retail shops, and stopping travel and commerce,” she added.
Instead, Wen urged people to take necessary precautions, such as wearing high-quality masks and getting boosted, to limit their risk of getting infected and infecting others, to protect the health care system and minimize disruptions.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: What is “flurona” and how serious is it?
A: “Flurona” is a term coined to describe the condition of being infected with Covid-19 and the flu simultaneously.
The flu and Covid-19 are respiratory diseases, and can cause similar symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, headache and fatigue, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Lockdowns and mask wearing helped to limit the spread of influenza earlier on in the pandemic, but as society opens up, cases are expected to rise.
“It’s interesting that after you have a year with a very, very low or not at all influenza activity, the next year because people were less exposed, it makes them more vulnerable,” Nadav Davidovitch, director of the School of Public Health at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, told CNN.
He added that for those without underlying health conditions who have been vaccinated for both influenza and Covid-19, these viruses are unlikely to have a “major effect on the individual.”
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READS OF THE WEEK
In ‘zero-Covid’ Hong Kong, this is what happens when you test positive
Darryl Chan tested positive for Covid-19 when he landed in Hong Kong last month. More than two weeks later – and despite never showing any symptoms – he remains isolated in a hospital bed with no sign of being allowed to leave. “I think the worst part is not knowing when I’ll be able to get out,” he said.
Hong Kong, along with mainland China, is one of the few places in the world still pursuing a zero-Covid policy and the rules in place there are among the strictest in the world. The minimum isolation period for anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 – even if they are asymptomatic – is nearly a month, Eric Cheung and Will Ripley write.
‘We can’t vaccinate the planet every six months’
A leading expert who helped create the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine said that it is unfeasible to give everyone in the world booster shots multiple times a year.
“We can’t vaccinate the planet every four to six months. It’s not sustainable or affordable,” Professor Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and head of the UK’s Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, told The Daily Telegraph in an interview published Tuesday.
Pollard also stressed the “need to target the vulnerable” going forward, rather than administering doses to everyone age 12 and older. More data is needed to ascertain “whether, when and how often those who are vulnerable will need additional doses,” he said.
It won’t be a pandemic forever. Here’s what could be next
Even after Covid-19 cases fall from their current record-high levels, it’s unlikely the United States – let alone the world – will be able to eliminate completely the coronavirus that causes them.
But there will come a day when it’s no longer a pandemic, when cases are no longer out of control and hospitals aren’t at great risk of overflowing with patients. Many experts predict that the spread of coronavirus will eventually look and feel more like that of seasonal influenza, Jacqueline Howard reports.
The US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for booster doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 Monday.
We asked pediatrician and child development expert Dr. David Hill to answer the most frequent questions parents have about the boosters.
THIS WEEK’S PODCAST
As we ring in a New Year, Dr. Sanjay Gupta hears from Chasing Life listeners about the steps they plan to take to live healthier and happier lives in 2022. Plus, guest experts share their tips for achieving your resolutions. Listen Here.