China starts using anal swabs to test ‘high-risk’ people for Covid

China has begun using anal swabs to test those it considers to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19, state TV has reported.

Officials took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhoods with confirmed Covid-19 cases in Beijing last week, according to the state broadcaster CCTV, while those in designated quarantine facilities have also had the tests.

Small, localised outbreaks in recent weeks have resulted in multiple cities in northern China being sealed off from the rest of the country and prompted mass testing campaigns, which had mostly been conducted using throat and nose swabs.

The anal swabs method “can increase the detection rate of infected people” as traces of the virus linger longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s Youan hospital, told CCTV.

People on the subway in Beijing

FULL SOURCE via The Guardian

UK and EU agree ‘a reset’ after NI vaccine fiasco

Coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca are expected to be supplied to the UK as planned, despite the EU’s export controls and demands for British-manufactured jabs, after a discussion with EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, the British Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said.

Gove said the EU recognises it “made a mistake” in its widely condemned attempt to override part of the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland, to prevent shipments of vaccine entering the UK, in a move that risked imposing a hard border with the republic.

A sign for NHS vaccination centre in Wembley in London.

Gove said:

“The prime minister [Boris Johnson] was very clear, we’ve entered into contractual arrangements with AstraZeneca and Pfizer and we expect those arrangements to be honoured.

And President von der Leyen was clear that she understood exactly the UK government’s position, so we expect that those contracts will be honoured, we expect that vaccines will continue to be supplied.

We’re confident that we can proceed with our vaccine programmes exactly as planned.

I’ve spoken to the European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič about this and we both agreed that we need a reset, that we need to put the people of Northern Ireland first.”

SOURCE via The Guardian

C.D.C. Now Says People Without Covid-19 Symptoms Do Not Need Testing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly modified its coronavirus testing guidelines this week to exclude people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 — even if they have been recently exposed to the virus.

Experts questioned the revision, pointing to the importance of identifying infections in the small window immediately before the onset of symptoms, when many individuals appear to be most contagious.

Models suggest that about half of transmission events can be traced back to individuals still in this so-called pre-symptomatic stage, before they start to feel ill — if they ever feel sick at all.

“This is potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, Calif. Restricting testing to only people with obvious symptoms of Covid-19 means “you’re not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease,” she added. “I feel like this is going to make things worse.”

At a moment when experts have almost universally come forward to encourage more frequent and widespread testing, especially to reach vulnerable and marginalized sectors of the population, the C.D.C.’s update appears counterintuitive and “very strange,” said Susan Butler-Wu, a clinical microbiologist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

Just weeks ago, the National Institutes of Health announced the first round of grant recipients for its Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program, or RADx, to scale up coronavirus testing in the coming weeks and months. On the agency’s RADx website, officials underscore the importance of prioritizing tests that can “detect people who are asymptomatic.”

A more lax approach to testing, experts said, could delay crucial treatments, as well as obscure, or even hasten, the coronavirus’s spread in the community.

“I think it’s bizarre,” said Daniel Larremore, a mathematician and infectious diseases modeler at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Any move right now to reduce levels of testing by changing guidelines is a step in the wrong direction.”

Prior iterations of the C.D.C.’s testing guidelines struck a markedly different tone, explicitly stating that “testing is recommended for all close contacts” of people infected with the coronavirus, regardless of symptoms. The agency also specifically emphasized “the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission” as an important factor in the spread of the virus.

Monte Solberg: It was supposed to be a Great Reset, not a Great Reseat

Sit back down again folks, you’re not going anywhere, except to jostle with Uzbekistan in the vaccine lineup

Christmas has come and gone. The dread year 2020 is no more, probably beaten to death by angry villagers. 2021 has arrived, still full of promise even after that little insurrection thing. No problem. A mere stumble. Remember, Justin Trudeau has our back. He is looking out for us. We just need to get vaccinated and away we go. We’ll head back to work, back to school, back to seeing family, back to normal.

No more face masks, except when overthrowing governments or stealing bicycles. No more social distancing, except when avoiding the neighbourhood Karen. No more washing our hands. No more sneezing into our elbow. Hello crowded, germ-infested, clammy get-togethers. The good old days. I can hardly wait.

About those vaccinations. Yes, millions of Americans are getting vaccinated, and wrinkled and wily Canadian snowbirds are taking advantage of American generosity by getting vaccinations while down south. Joe Biden is upping the ante saying Americans will receive 100 million doses in his first 100 days as president. The British are already going hard. They just announced they are now vaccinating 24/7 at 2,700 locations. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have ramped up. Canada is employing the unusual strategy of ramping down. Despite the totally comforting idea of the prime minister having our backs, vaccine makers are cutting our shipments. The provinces are being forced to delay followup shots. Vaccine shipments to Europe have resumed but Canada has been reduced to half rations for the next month. Where’s the respect?

FULL SOURCE via National Post

Chios camp in quarantine after at least 30 test positive for COVID-19

Emma Wallis 2020/10/15

The Vial camp on the Greek island of Chios has been placed under strict quarantine measures again after it was reported that at least 30 migrants had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Greek Migration Ministry announced on Wednesday, October 14 that it would be placing the migrant camp at Vial on the Greek island of Chios under quarantine again, after at least 30 migrants reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the news agency dpa, the quarantine measures will be in place until at least October 21. The ministry said it was now carrying out “extensive health checks.”

This is the second time the camp on Chios has been placed under quarantine. In August the camp was placed under quarantine after first a Yemeni man and a female employee were reported to have tested positive and then three more residents found they had the virus.

Vial migrant camp on the Greek island of Chios | Photo: Picture-alliance/Photoshot/L.Partsalis

Unable to leave camp

In August this year, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR confirmed that there were some 121,400 migrants and refugees in Greece. About 27,700 of those were on the Greek islands and about 3,000 people were thought to be in the Chios camp at the time. At that point the camp was holding about two thirds more than its capacity.

According to Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper, all migrants in the camp will be prevented from leaving its confines and only a “small number of staff members may enter the camp.” Daily Sabah estimates that there are currently “over 3,800 asylum seekers living at the Vial camp.”

Coronavirus in Greece

Greece has so far had relatively few cases of coronavirus compared with many other countries in Europe. According to World Health Organization data, between January 3 and October 14 this year, there were 23,060 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 462 deaths.

However, cases in Greece, like in many other countries, are rising. The country recorded the highest number of daily deaths so far this year on October 12, with 13 people dying from or with COVID-19.

FULL SOURCE via InfoMigrants

COVID-19: ‘Real-world’ analysis of coronavirus vaccine in Israel raises questions about UK strategy

The first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine suggests it is matching its performance in clinical trials, but raises serious questions about the UK’s decision to delay the second dose.

Scientists in Israel – which is leading the COVID-19 vaccination race – have told Sky News that they are “very hopeful” having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people.

But crucially they say their results do not show efficacy at a level close to that used by the UK to justify delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab.

Care home staff receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine in Belfast

Professor Ran Balicer is a physician, epidemiologist and chief innovation officer for Clalit, the largest health care provider in Israel. He is also an adviser to the World Health Organisation.Advertisement

“We compared 200,000 people above the age of 60 that were vaccinated. We took a comparison group of 200,000 people, same age, not vaccinated, that were matched to this group on various variables…” Prof Balicer said.

FULL SOURCE via Sky News

WHO Information Notice for IVD Users 2020/05

Product type: Nucleic acid testing (NAT) technologies that use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for detection of SARS-CoV-2

Date: 13 January 2021                                                                      

WHO-identifier: 2020/5, version 2

Target audience: laboratory professionals and users of IVDs.

Purpose of this notice: clarify information previously provided by WHO. This notice supersedes WHO Information Notice for In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Device (IVD) Users 2020/05 version 1, issued 14 December 2020.

Description of the problem: WHO requests users to follow the instructions for use (IFU) when interpreting results for specimens tested using PCR methodology.  

Users of IVDs must read and follow the IFU carefully to determine if manual adjustment of the PCR positivity threshold is recommended by the manufacturer.

WHO guidance Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 states that careful interpretation of weak positive results is needed (1). The cycle threshold (Ct) needed to detect virus is inversely proportional to the patient’s viral load. Where test results do not correspond with the clinical presentation, a new specimen should be taken and retested using the same or different NAT technology.

WHO reminds IVD users that disease prevalence alters the predictive value of test results; as disease prevalence decreases, the risk of false positive increases (2). This means that the probability that a person who has a positive result (SARS-CoV-2 detected) is truly infected with SARS-CoV-2 decreases as prevalence decreases, irrespective of the claimed specificity.

Most PCR assays are indicated as an aid for diagnosis, therefore, health care providers must consider any result in combination with timing of sampling, specimen type, assay specifics, clinical observations, patient history, confirmed status of any contacts, and epidemiological information.

Actions to be taken by IVD users:

  1. Please read carefully the IFU in its entirety.
  2. Contact your local representative if there is any aspect of the IFU that is unclear to you.
  3. Check the IFU for each incoming consignment to detect any changes to the IFU.
  4. Provide the Ct value in the report to the requesting health care provider.

Contact person for further information:

Anita SANDS, Regulation and Prequalification, World Health Organization, e-mail:


1. Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020, WHO reference number WHO/2019-nCoV/laboratory/2020.6.

2. Altman DG, Bland JM. Diagnostic tests 2: Predictive values. BMJ. 1994 Jul 9;309(6947):102. doi: 10.1136/bmj.309.6947.102. 


UK coronavirus LIVE: Covid vaccine ‘could jeopardise lockdown gains’ as cases plunge in east London

By Harriet Brewis

Britons should not rely on coronavirus vaccines “coming to our rescue”, health leaders have warned, as it remains “absolutely critical” that lockdown rules continue to be observed.

NHS England’s medical director Stephen Powis told Monday’s Downing Street press briefing that it will be “some time” before the vaccine roll-out has an impact on the pressure facing hospitals, adding: “We all have a role to play in reducing the risk of transmission.”

His comments came after Sage scientists advising the Government highlighted the “risk” that “changes in behaviour could offset the benefits of vaccination, particularly in the early months of vaccine rollout.”

In more positive developments, official figures reveal that London is increasingly turning the tide on Covid-19 with eight boroughs – predominantly in the east of the capital – seeing drops of more than 1,000 in the number of weekly confirmed cases.

FULL ARTICLE SOURCE via Evening Standard

Covid vaccine: WHO warns of ‘catastrophic moral failure’

The world faces a “catastrophic moral failure” because of unequal Covid vaccine policies, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was not fair for younger, healthy people in richer nations to get injections before vulnerable people in poorer states.

He said over 39 million vaccine doses had been given in 49 richer states – but one poor nation had only 25 doses.

Meanwhile, both the WHO and China were criticised for their Covid response.

An independent panel commissioned by the WHO said the UN public health body should have declared an international emergency earlier, and also rapped China for not taking public health measures sooner.

So far, China, India, Russia, the UK and the US have all developed Covid vaccines, with others being made by multinational teams – like the American-German Pfizer vaccine.

Almost all of these nations have prioritised distribution to their own populations.

A woman gets a dose of Sputnik V vaccine in Moscow, Russia. Photo: 18 January 2021

What did the WHO head say?

Speaking at a WHO executive board session on Monday, Dr Tedros said, “I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.”

Dr Tedros said a “me-first” approach would be self-defeating because it would push up prices and encourage hoarding.

“Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering,” he added.