Preprint: Omicron incompletely escapes immunity induced by the Pfizer vaccine

Laboratory research from South Africa strongly suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant escapes antibody immunity induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine, but that considerable immunity is retained in people who were both vaccinated and previously infected.

“The clinical implications of these important laboratory data need to be determined. It is likely that lesser vaccine-induced protection against infection and disease would be the result. Importantly, most vaccinologists agree that the current vaccines will still protect against severe disease and death in the face of Omicron infection. It is therefore critical that everyone should be vaccinated,” said Africa Health Research Institute executive director Professor Willem Hanekom.

The research has been submitted to medRxiv. To access an advance copy of the manuscript, click here.

AHRI.org press release

 

 

 

 

 

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Norway: “situation is more worrying now than in previous pandemic waves”

“The threat from Omicron is enormous”. NIPH director Camilla Stoltenberg says the Omicron variant of the coronavirus can cause a lot of infection and disease, “perhaps more than before in the pandemic”.

“It seems to be easier to infect vaccinated in addition to unvaccinated,” says Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg says that it now seems that people will not get sicker from the new variant, but that more people will get sick and that this means that more people will become seriously ill as well.

The situation is serious. The government fears that a further increase in infection will lead to the health service not being able to provide all help.

– The infection must be limited so that not many people need health care at the same time, said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and outlined new measures and recommendations:

– We encourage everyone to reduce the number of close contacts.

– The one meter rule is back, keep your distance.

– Recommends a maximum of 10 people at home, and 20 on Christmas Eve or another party at Christmas (if you can keep a meter distance between the guests)

– Training should take place outdoors.

– Take the vaccine.

Mandatory for facemasks if you can not keep a distance of one meter.

– Mandatory facemasks and restrictions on guests do not apply to children, who can invite more than 10 people from those they are still in a cohort with in kindergarten and school.

Very intrusive coronary restrictions are now being introduced that affect many companies. It is good that the government is acting quickly and introducing a national compensation scheme for November and December. But companies need further measures, says NHO director Ole Erik Almlid.

NHO wants to put in place a scheme for wage support, to avoid mass layoffs before Christmas.

NHO otherwise understands that the development of infection and the situation around the omicron variant necessitate new restrictions.

But Almlid is very worried about what it means for the restaurant and nightlife bars that you now get cancelled Christmas dinners and large falls in turnover.

NRK.no report

 

Image by Tommy Andreassen from Pixabay

 

Norway: “The number of corona inpatients who need intensive care is higher than before, and it seems to be increasing”

“The death toll has increased week by week now… we are falling behind in the fight against infection,” said the chief physician at the University Hospital of Northern Norway, Mats Gilbert. “The number of corona inpatients who need intensive care is higher than before, and it seems to be increasing”.

He also pointed out that even though Norway has high vaccination rates, it does not seem to stop the new variant from advancing. The corona pandemic has so far claimed 1,093 lives in Norway. About 17% of the deaths have occurred in the last month, the newspaper Klassekampen writes.

Norwaytoday.info report

 

Norway, in terms of daily numbers, are seeing their highest ever casualty rates from Covid – up to 50 deaths on some days.

 

Norway and Denmark have both seen a steady increase in Covid deaths since early November, before the Omicron variant was discovered. Vaccine waning and seasonal effects on the Delta variant could be a cause, but a more infectious SARS-CoV-2 strain couldn’t have come at a worse time for either country.

 

Norway: Omicron infections rise to 120 130 in “unstoppable” Christmas superspreader event

 

 

Image by Thorsten Blank from Pixabay

FFP2 masks more effective at preventing Covid infection than vaccines

Max Planck: “When both wear a surgical mask, while the infectious is speaking, the very conservative upper bound remains below 30% after 1 h, but, when both wear a well-fitting FFP2 mask, it is 0.4%”

We find, for a typical SARS-CoV-2 viral load and infectious dose, that social distancing alone, even at 3.0 m between two speaking individuals, leads to an upper bound of 90% for risk of infection after a few minutes.

If only the susceptible wears a face mask with infectious speaking at a distance of 1.5 m, the upper bound drops very significantly; that is, with a surgical mask, the upper bound reaches 90% after 30 min, and, with an FFP2 mask, it remains at about 20% even after 1 h.

When both wear a surgical mask, while the infectious is speaking, the very conservative upper bound remains below 30% after 1 h, but, when both wear a well-fitting FFP2 mask, it is 0.4%.

We conclude that wearing appropriate masks in the community provides excellent protection for others and oneself, and makes social distancing less important.

Max Planck Preprint: An upper bound on one-to-one exposure to infectious human respiratory particles

Max Planck Article: Face masks effectively limit Sars-CoV-2 transmission

 

Scotland: 88% of Covid deaths and 66% of new Covid cases are fully vaccinated

 

Norway: Nearly 100 Omicron infections from one Oslo Christmas party

Another 20-30 people have been registered infected with Covid after a Christmas dinner at a restaurant in Oslo at the end of November. This is in addition to the 60 who have already been registered infected.

The infected people visited the restaurant Louise Restaurant & Bar at Aker Brygge in Frogner, Oslo,  at the same time as a Christmas table was held at the restaurant. They are thus in addition to the around 60 Christmas table participants who have already been registered infected, reports NRK.

Dagsavisen.no report (in Norwegian)

 

Note: The number of people infected with the Omicron variant from this one Christmas party could now be nearly 100. The original guest list was said to be about 120 people, although some of the new infections reported today are related to other patrons who were at the same venue on the same day. All of the guests invited to the Christmas party were fully vaccinated and were asked to take a Covid test before attending.

 

Norway: Omicron superspreader event sees about 60 fully vaccinated people infected

 

Image by Alexandra von Gutthenbach-Lindau from Pixabay

Preprint: Increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection associated with emergence of the Omicron variant in South Africa

332 individuals were identified who had three suspected infections. Most of these individuals initially tested positive during the first wave, with suspected reinfections associated with waves two and three. One of these individuals had four suspected infections. Among the individuals who have had more than one reinfection, 47 (14.2%) experienced their third infection in November 2021, which suggests that many third infections are associated with transmission of the Omicron variant.

MedrXiv Preprint: Increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection associated with emergence of the Omicron variant in South Africa

Omicron at 74% of South African genome sequences in November

 

Sars-CoV-2 – checkmate to the virus in four moves

 

Image by Keli Black from Pixabay

Germany: “We have to shut down the whole country even more”

Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder calls for drastic nationwide measures to break the fourth wave. “Unfortunately, to protect our health system, we have to shut down the whole country even more,” said the CSU head.

“The Leopoldina’s* warnings are a wake-up call,” he says*. “We now need consistent contact restrictions for the unvaccinated, a lockdown for hotspot regions, masks in all schools and football games without spectators.” The CSU boss warns: “Every day of waiting and hesitation is a wasted day.” The whole of Germany is headed for an emergency, “the coming federal government must no longer stand idly by”.

  • The National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina recommends immediate comprehensive contact restrictions in view of the dynamic corona infection. “From a medical and epidemiological point of view, it is immediately effective to significantly reduce the number of contacts for a few weeks from the beginning of the coming week,” it says in a statement . “Due to the decreasing immunity, these measures would have to apply temporarily to vaccinated and convalescent people who have to receive a booster vaccination during this time.”

N-tv.de report (in German)

 

Belgium is now seeing its highest covid case rates ever, and, along with the Netherlands, it has already gone into some form of lockdown:

 

 

Image by ddzphoto from Pixabay

Italy: For Omicron, “a fourth dose of vaccine will be needed”

Arnaldo Caruso, president of the Italian society of virology: “Today we have to face the Delta, from which we protect ourselves with the vaccine. So it is absolutely necessary to do the third dose. We hope to be able to avoid the entry of Omicron with tracking, but if we go into another season with the new variant, a booster with a fourth vaccine dose will be needed”.

Il Giorno report (in Italian)

 

 

 

 

 

Image by alexroma from Pixabay

So what is the plan for when the vaccines fail?

“I think it’s time to ask the vaccine taskforce and the government, what is your plan for an escape variant? What is your plan for resilience for the future?

In an interview with the Observer, Clive Dix, a leading figure in drug development who chaired the UK vaccine taskforce until April, said “I wrote a very specific proposal on what we should put in place right now for the emergence of any new virus that escaped the vaccine,” he said. “That was written and handed into the [vaccine taskforce] at the end of April [2021] when I left. I haven’t seen a sign of any of those activities yet.

“I sent a note to No 10 [in May] saying I think this is still an emergency and it should be dealt with urgently – and I want it on public record that you’ve got my proposal. But I didn’t even get a response to that. I prodded the government and said, ‘What’s going on, because we need to do this’. I don’t see any of that going on.”

He added: “I think it’s time to ask the vaccine taskforce and the government, what is your plan for an escape variant? What is your plan for resilience for the future? Let’s see it because I think the country needs to know.”

Observer newspaper report

 

We have been asking the same question since June 2021,,,,

So what is Plan B if the vaccines fail?

 

 

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Netherlands: Evening lockdown for three weeks from November 28th

All locations and events must close from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Essential stores, like supermarkets and drugstores, can remain open until 8 p.m.

The Netherlands will enforce an evening lockdown for three weeks beginning on Sunday, November 28. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge unveiled a package of measures including the lockdown, expanded use of face masks, and stricter social distancing obligations in an attempt to bring about a 20 percent cut to the number of times people come in contact with each other.

The new measures were announced at a press conference on Friday, roughly eight weeks after most coronavirus restrictions were released in the Netherlands. Since that time, the average number of daily coronavirus infections has jumped from under 1,700 to over 22,000, including a single-day record of 23,789 set earlier this week. A handful of new measures were announced two weeks ago, but with little immediately measurable impact.

The full list of new coronavirus restrictions follows. They will remain in effect at least through Tuesday, December 14, when the Cabinet will again revisit the issue.

The new measures and urgent advisory statements

“Stay at home as much as possible,” the Cabinet said in a press release.
All adults 18 years of age and over must keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other.
All locations and events must close from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Essential stores, like supermarkets and drugstores, can remain open until 8 p.m.
Face masks are required wherever assigned seating rules apply, including bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and theaters.
Providing space so people can keep 1.5 meters away from each other is required at trade fairs, museums, zoos, amusement parks, and wherever assigned seating rules apply, including bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and theaters. This is expected to impact maximum capacity of these locations.
Those working at an office or other worksite must keep 1.5 meters distance from others, the Cabinet advised.
“The urgent advice to churches is also to adhere to the measures. Show solidarity with the rest of the country,” Rutte said.
Amateur sports matches and practices are banned from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Elite athletes are not forbidden to compete and train from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. without an audience.
Professionals in arts and culture are allowed to rehearse from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. without an audience.
Face masks should be worn by primary school students in Groups Six, Seven and Eight when they are not in the classroom.
Face masks should be worn by all secondary school students when they are not in the classroom.
Children under 12 years of age cannot go to school if they have a mild cold, runny nose, or stuffed nose. They must stay home until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, or until they test negative at a GGD test location.
Children under the age of 12 should be kept separate from those over 70 years of age.
Household guests should take a coronavirus self-test beforehand.

NLtimes.nl report

 

Europe: all-time Covid infection record broken by growing winter superwave

 

Image by Bernardo Ferreria from Pixabay

Botswana: 4 Omicron cases detected this week were fully vaccinated

A press release from the Covid-19 taskforce of Botswana, outlining details of the first four cases of Omicron variant B.1.1.529 found in Botswana:

 

Nu variant: first European case of B.1.1.529 found in Belgium via Egypt and Turkey

 

 

Photo by Justice Hubane on Unsplash 

B.1.1.529 Omicron: Valve-style face mask may have caused cross-infection between vaccinated, quarantined patients

A Covid-19 patient whose valve-style face mask was blamed for a cross infection in a quarantine hotel last week has been found to be carrying a new variant of the virus with a high number of mutations, marking the first known appearance of the strain in Hong Kong.

The Department of Health revealed on Thursday night that a genome sequencing analysis confirmed the patient, who arrived in the city from South Africa, and another hotel guest who tested positive a few days after him, were infected with the B.1.1.529 [Omicron] coronavirus variant. Both were fully vaccinated.

The new variant – which has been designated “Omicron” by the WHO, in keeping with global naming conventions based on the Greek alphabet – was first discovered in Botswana. Apart from the two cases in Hong Kong, only nine others have been identified worldwide so far – three in Botswana, and six in South Africa.

SCMP report

 

** We understand that the infected patient had at least one PCR tests that proved negative before testing positive for B.1.1.529 during his stay in quarantine **

 

 

 

 

Image by Ren_mch from Pixabay

Sweden: 43% of patients in ICU are fully vaccinated, and the figure is rising

In September 2021, 23% of those cared for in Swedish IVA (ICU) were fully vaccinated. In October, the share increased to 31%. So far in November, 43% are fully vaccinated.

If you look at the age group 60 years and up – where vaccine coverage has been largely unchanged in recent months, in August, the proportion of fully vaccinated in intensive care was 20 per cent, in September 42 per cent, in October 61 per cent and in November 76 per cent.

Dagens Nyheter report (in Swedish)

 

Belgium doctor: Our ICU is full of vaccinated patients

 

 

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Slovakia: Two week Covid lockdown introduced

Slovakia will be put in lockdown for two weeks from Thursday, November 25th 2021. The government decided on this at Wednesday’s meeting. Prime Minister Eduard Heger said that from midnight today, a state of emergency would apply in Slovakia for a maximum of 90 days.

“It is important to realize that if we want to beat the crown, it is about every single citizen. Covid is spreading among the people, so compliance is a key to success. We need to be locked up as a society. The situation is serious, we got into it because the measures were not followed,” said Heger.

Pravda.sk report (in Slovakian)

 

Slovakia’s infection rate, by population size, is far outstripping that of the rest of Europe

Slovakian President: “We are losing the fight against the pandemic, we need a lockdown”

 

 

 

 

Image by Leonhard Niederwimmer from Pixabay