Top U.S. general Milley tests positive for COVID-19: spokesman

WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) – U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and is experiencing very minor symptoms while isolating and working remotely, a spokesman said on Monday.

Milley’s most recent contact with President Joe Biden was on Jan. 12 at the funeral of retired General Raymond Odierno, the spokesman said.

Milley had tested negative several days prior to and each day following contact with Biden, until yesterday, the spokesman added. Milley is vaccinated and has received his booster, the spokesman added.

All other Joint Chiefs of Staff except for one tested negative for COVID-19 yesterday, the spokesman said. The other chief who tested positive, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General David Berger, will continue performing his duties unaffected, a Marine Corps spokesperson said. Reuters news

Drone helps save cardiac arrest patient in Sweden

An autonomous drone has helped to save the life of a 71-year-old man who was suffering a cardiac arrest.

The drone delivered a defibrillator to a doctor helping the man, who became ill while shovelling snow outside his house in Trollhattan, Sweden.

The man, who didn’t wish to be named, told the BBC it was “fantastic” that it arrived so quickly.

The company behind the drone says it meant that defibrillation could begin before the arrival of an ambulance.

Everdrone says it took just over three minutes from the alarm being raised until the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was delivered.

Passing doctor

The patient told the BBC he doesn’t remember what happened that day in early December.

He was clearing thick snow from his driveway but when the cardiac arrest hit, “everything went black”, he said.

His wife later told him how lucky he had been.

Dr Mustafa Ali, who happened to be driving past at the time, rushed to help and told Everdrone: “I was on my way to work at the local hospital when I looked out the car window and saw a man collapsed in his driveway.

“The man had no pulse, so I started doing CPR while asking another bystander to call 112 (the Swedish emergency number).

“Just minutes later, I saw something flying above my head. It was a drone with a defibrillator

Everdrone chief executive Mats Sallstrom believes the technology played a part in a team effort to save the patient’s life.

“It’s a medical doctor doing CPR, it’s the early defibrillation, it’s the treatment in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” he told the BBC.

“It’s important to understand that there’s a chain of events saving the person’s life, and the drone is a very critical part of how that system works.”

The drone is a partnership between the Karolinska Institutet – Sweden’s largest medical university – together with the national emergency operator SOS Alarm, Region Vastra Gotaland and Everdrone.

In 2020, the group explored the use of drones to deliver defibrillators in Gothenburg and Kungalv in western Sweden.

Over the four-month study, the Karolinska researchers found that drones were dispatched to 12 out of 14 cases of suspected cardiac arrest, and successfully delivered an AED in all but one.

In seven cases the drones arrived before the ambulances.

In the December incident, it was fortunate that a doctor was nearby, but questions remain about whether members of the public without medical training would know what to do with a defibrillator.

In the 2020 study no devices were attached to patients, though the reasons why are unclear.

Mr Sallstrom said they are designed for an untrained person to use, adding: “In these scenarios you are also on the phone to the emergency centre and they can guide you.”

Since 2020, Everdrone says the system has got a lot faster – the focus now is to work closely with the dispatchers who give instructions to the people on site.

Everdrone is in talks to bring the technology to other countries, including the UK – though the firm won’t say to which ones it has been speaking.

Drones are already in use by some UK emergency services. Earlier this year, an 83-year-old man’s family said his life was “saved” when he was found by a police drone after being missing for 18 hours.

Ready to go

The key to the Swedish system is having an integrated system ready to go, Everdrone says.

The drone system is electronically integrated with the emergency dispatch system and can get ready to fly as soon as an emergency call suggesting a cardiac arrest is received, Mr Sallstrom said.

Although the drone is autonomous, there is also a “pilot in command” – who oversees the operation for safety reasons and can obtain clearance to take off from air traffic control.

Covid: Deadly Omicron should not be called mild, warns WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against describing the Omicron variant as mild, saying it is killing people across the world.

Recent studies suggest that Omicron is less likely to make people seriously ill than previous Covid variants.

But the record number of people catching it has left health systems under severe pressure, said WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

On Monday, the US recorded more than one million Covid cases in 24 hours.

The WHO – the UN’s health agency – said the number of global cases has increased by 71% in the last week, and in the Americas by 100%. It said that among severe cases worldwide, 90% were unvaccinated.

“While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorised as mild,” Dr Tedros told a press conference on Thursday.

“Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalising people and it is killing people.

“In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world.”

Omicron is highly contagious and can infect people even if they are fully vaccinated. However, vaccines are still pivotal as they help protect against severe disease that could put you in hospital.

On Thursday, the UK reported 179,756 cases and 231 Covid-related deaths. A number of hospitals have declared “critical” incidents due to staff absence and rising pressures due to Covid.

Elsewhere, hospital numbers are also rising. France’s health minister Olivier Veran warned this week that January would be tough for hospitals.

He added that Omicron patients were taking up “conventional” beds in hospitals while Delta was putting a strain on ICU departments. France on Thursday reported 261,000 cases.

Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, said the country’s healthcare system is currently under great pressure. The country recorded more than 9,000 cases on Thursday, according to local media.

In his latest comments, Dr Tedros repeated his calls for greater vaccine distribution to help poorer countries jab their populations.

He said that based on the current vaccine rollout, 109 countries will miss the WHO’s target for 70% of the world to be fully vaccinated by July.

Last year, the WHO chief said the world will have enough doses of the vaccine in 2022 to jab the entire global adult population – if Western countries do not hoard vaccines to use in booster programmes. BBC

Covid: US reports record infections as Europe’s Omicron cases also soar

The US and several European countries have reported their highest daily rises in Covid cases since the pandemic began, as the Omicron variant spreads.

More than 440,000 new cases were recorded in the US on Monday, health officials said.

France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and England have also reported record numbers of daily infections.

Officials have said the high figures could be due in part to reporting delays over the Christmas period.

Studies suggest that Omicron is milder than the previously dominant Delta variant, but fears remain that the sheer number of cases stemming from the highly infectious Omicron could overwhelm hospitals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the risk posed by Omicron “remains very high”.

Poland on Wednesday recorded 794 Covid-related deaths, the highest number in its fourth wave of the pandemic, with more than three-quarters of the victims unvaccinated.

In the US, cases recorded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rose by 441,278 on 27 December – by far the highest number of daily cases ever reported to the agency.

The CDC data tracker says US media report the seven-day average rise in infections is now at its highest level since January 2021.

A CDC spokeswoman told news site Politico that the latest infection figures could be overestimated due to lags in testing and test centre closures over the Christmas period, adding that case numbers would “become more stable after the new year”.

The health agency has also expanded its travel warnings for parts of Europe, adding Malta, Moldova and Sweden to a list of countries where travel poses a very high risk of infection.

Travellers are asked to avoid these countries under the CDC’s Level 4 criteria, which a destination receives if it reports more than 500 cases per 100,000 people.

US infectious disease expert Amesh Adalja told the BBC that Omicron could “get round the protection afforded by vaccines” and “affect anybody at will”.

“So we are going to see cases rise,” he said. “The key is to keep this away from high-risk people… we’re really going to have to focus on severe cases and hospitalisations.”

According to a report published by the WHO on Tuesday, the number of new Covid infections of all variants grew by 57% in Europe in the week before 26 December, and by 30% in the Americas.

On Tuesday, France reported 179,807 new infections, Europe’s highest ever number of daily cases.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran warned that “everything suggests” France could see as many as 250,000 daily cases by the start of January.

The French Hospital Federation has said that the “most difficult weeks are yet to come”.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new restrictions earlier this week. The country’s booster rollout has ramped up, with more than 23 million people having received a booster to date.

A number of other European countries also reported record daily cases on Tuesday:

  • Infections in Italy topped 78,000 cases, hitting a new record since the start of the pandemic. It also recorded 202 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 136,753
  • Portugal recorded 17,172 new cases
  • Greece: Health Minister Thanos Plevris called for calm after the country reported 21,657 cases
  • Health authorities in England reported a record 117,093 cases. Full UK-wide Covid data has been unavailable over the Christmas period. BBC

Travel stocks fall as Omicron spurs mass flight cancellations for fourth day

Dec 27 (Reuters) – Shares of U.S. airlines and other travel-related companies fell on Monday as rising Omicron cases and weather-related problems forced the cancellation of hundreds more flights, leaving travelers stranded across the country during the holidays.

Over 1,000 flights were canceled within, into, or out of the United States on Monday, data from flight-tracking website FlightAware.com showed. Globally, more than 2,600 flights were scrapped.

That was on top of over 3,000 U.S. flight cancellations during the Christmas holiday weekend, typically a peak time for travel for Americans.

Shares of American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O), United Airlines Holdings Inc and Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N)were down about 1% in afternoon trade. Southwest Airlines Co’s(LUV.N) shares recovered losses to trade about flat.

Most airline stocks have rallied this year on hopes of a travel boom as travelers start visiting friends and family after dealing with pandemic-related restrictions last year.

8However, staff shortages at airlines, weather-related disruptions and now the fast-spreading Omicron variant have disrupted flights frequently this year. 

As long as the Omicron variant continues to infect people who are vaccinated and quarantine restrictions remain in place, air travel is expected to be hit by staffing shortages, research firm Third Bridge Group’s Peter McNally said.

Southwest Airlines said it had canceled about 50 of the 3,600 flights scheduled Monday due to weather-related problems. United Airlines said it had called off 115 of the 4,000 flights that were scheduled, while Deltaexpects to cancel over 200 of 4,166 its scheduled flights

Omicron: Australia pauses next phase of border reopening

Australia has paused plans to reopen its borders to some foreign nationals amid fears over the new Covid variant.

The country was due to allow vaccinated skilled migrants and international students entry from 1 December.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a delay of a fortnight was “necessary” following Omicron’s discovery.

The heavily mutated variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month, with initial evidence suggesting it has a higher re-infection risk.

It prompted the UK, EU and US to issue a travel ban on Southern African countries – a decision criticised by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Japan announced on Monday that all foreigners would be banned from entering as a result of the variant, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has said poses a high risk globally.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida did not say how long the measures would last, and told reporters that he was ready to face criticism for being too cautious.

“These are temporary, exceptional measures that we are taking for safety’s sake, until there is clearer information about the Omicron variant,” Mr Kishida said. Japan has yet to detect any cases.

Australia – which has so far found five Omicron infections among travellers arriving in the country – has not announced rolling back any of the restrictions it had already eased.

The country has until recently had some of the strictest border policies in the world, barring even its own people from leaving the country under a strategy sometimes dubbed “Fortress Australia”.

The policy was praised for helping to control Covid, but it has also controversially separated families.

The measure was only eased in November this year, giving long-awaited freedoms to vaccinated citizens and their relatives. Under the current rules, permanent residents and fully vaccinated travellers from New Zealand and Singapore are allowed into Australia.BBC

Some Home Remedies for Toothache.

Toothache can be painful and really disturbing especially in the night.If it happens and you cannot go to a dentist immediately, you can do this to relieve pain at home. Pregnant women and nursing mothers must call their dentist first.

1.

Salt water rinse

Rinsing the mouth with salt water is an effective first-line treatment. Salt water is a natural disinfectant, and it can help loosen food particles and debris that may be stuck in between your tmouths is

Treating a toothache with salt water can also help reduce inflammation and heal oral wounds.

To use this approach, mix 1/2 teaspoon (tsp) of salt into a glass of warm water and use it to gargle and rinse the mouth.

2.

Cold compress

You can use a cold compress to relieve any pain you’re experiencing, especially if any type of trauma has caused your toothache.

When you apply a cold compress, it causes constrictionof blood vessels and this makes pain less severe. The cold can also reduce any swelling and inflammation.

To use this approach, hold a towel-wrapped bag of ice to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time. You can repeat this every few hours.

3.

Hydrogen peroxide

A hydrogen peroxide  rinse may also help to relieve pain and inflammation. In addition to killing bacteria, hydrogen peroxide can help with gum healing and plaque reduction

Make sure you properly dilute the hydrogen peroxide. To do this, mix 3-percent hydrogen peroxide with equal parts water, and use it as a mouthwash. Don’t swallow it.

4.

Garlic

For thousands of years, garlic has been recognized and used for its medicinal properties. It also has antibacterial  properties. Not only can it kill bacteria  that cause dental plaque, but it can also act as a pain reliever.

To use garlic on a toothache, crush a garlic clove to create a paste and apply it to the affected area. You may wish to add a tiny bit of salt. Alternatively, you can slowly chew a clove of fresh garlic.

5.

Guava leaves

These leaves have antibacterial properties  that can help heal wounds.It also contains antimicrobial  activity that can aid in oral care.

To use this remedy, chew on fresh guava leaves or add crushed guava leaves to boiling water to make a mouthwash

6.

Anti- inflammatory

You can also reduce swelling and blunt pain signals by taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. If you do take ibuprofen, try to continue taking the medication every few hours, according to the product label. Avoid taking the medication once and then stopping when you feel relief, or the pain and inflammation is likely to return. If you don’t have ibuprofen, you can take acetaminophen instead; however, while this will help with the pain, it isn’t an anti-inflammatory medication.

AstraZeneca to take profits from Covid vaccine

The drugs giant has signed a series of for-profit agreements for next year, and expects to make a modest income from the vaccine, it said.

The company had previously said it would only start to make money from the vaccine when Covid-19 was no longer a pandemic.

Its chief executive Pascal Soriot said the disease was becoming endemic.

The jab will continue to be supplied on a not-for-profit basis to poorer countries.

Mr Soriot had said previously: “We decided to provide it at no profit, because our top priority was to protect global health.”

He told the BBC he had “absolutely no regrets” about not making a profit when competitors had been, despite having to deal with political criticism in various countries.

He said the vaccine, which was developed with the University of Oxford, had saved a million lives around the world.

“I absolutely don’t regret it,” Mr Soriot said. “We are proud as a company of the impact we have had – we’ve saved millions of hospitalisations. The [AstraZeneca] team continues to do a stellar job.”

He said that the contracts that had been signed are for next year, adding: “The virus is becoming endemic which means we have to learn to live with it.

“We started this to help, but we said we would transition [to making a profit on the vaccine],” he said. “It’s not something we see as a huge profit-earner.”

There will be tiered pricing for countries to make sure the vaccine is affordable, Mr Soriot said.

By the end of the year AstraZeneca expects to have supplied 250 million doses of its vaccine to the Covax programme for developing countries.

Other vaccine manufacturers including Pfizer and Moderna have been making profits from their vaccines.

A normal profit margin in the drugs industry is about 20%, but Mr Soriot said AstraZeneca, which charges about $5 per shot for the Covid vaccine at cost price, would not be making as much profit as that.

However, Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said AstraZeneca’s decision to start profiting from the vaccine while the coronavirus pandemic was continuing “shows the utter folly of giving away publicly-funded science to big pharma”.

“This moment was always going to come – and it’s exactly why public health experts have demanded a waiver of intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.

Covid: Virus may have killed 80k-180k health workers, WHO says

Healthcare workers must be prioritised for vaccines, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, and he criticised unfairness in the distribution of jabs.

The deaths occurred between January 2020 and May of this year.

Earlier, another senior WHO official warned a lack of jabs could see the pandemic continue well into next year.

There are an estimated 135 million healthcare workers globally.

“Data from 119 countries suggest that on average, two in five healthcare workers globally are fully vaccinated,” Dr Tedros said.

“But of course, that average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings.”

Fewer than one in 10 healthcare workers were fully vaccinated in Africa, he said, compared with eight in 10 in high-income countries.

A failure to provide poorer countries with enough vaccines was highlighted earlier by Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior leader at the WHO, who said it meant the Covid crisis could “easily drag on deep into 2022”.

Less than 5% of Africa’s population have been vaccinated, compared with 40% on most other continents.

The vast majority of Covid vaccines overall have been used in high-income or upper middle-income countries. Africa accounts for just 2.6% of doses administered globally.

More than 50 countries missing Covid vaccine target
Covax: How many Covid vaccines have the US and the other G7 countries pledged?
Covid vaccines: How fast is progress around the world?
The original idea behind Covax, the UN-backed global programme to distribute vaccines fairly, was that all countries would be able to acquire vaccines from its pool, including wealthy ones, writes BBC Global Affairs correspondent Naomi Grimley.

But most G7 countries decided to hold back once they started making their own one-to-one deals with pharmaceutical companies.

Dr Aylward appealed to wealthy countries to give up their places in the queue for vaccines so that pharmaceutical companies can prioritise the lowest-income countries instead.

He said wealthy countries needed to “stocktake” where they were with their donation commitments made at summits such as the G7 meeting in St Ives this summer.

“I can tell you we’re not on track,” he said. “We really need to speed it up or you know what? This pandemic is going to go on for a year longer than it needs to.”

The People’s Vaccine – an alliance of charities – has released new figures suggesting just one in seven of the doses promised by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy countries are actually reaching their destinations in poorer countries.

The alliance, which includes Oxfam and UNAids, also criticised Canada and the UK for procuring vaccines for their own populations via Covax.


IMAGE SOURCE,BBC NEWS

Official figures show that earlier this year the UK received 539,370 Pfizer doses from Covax while Canada took just under a million AstraZeneca doses.

Oxfam’s Global Health Adviser, Rohit Malpani, acknowledged that Canada and the UK were technically entitled to get vaccines via this route having paid into the Covax mechanism, but he said it was still “morally indefensible” given that they had both obtained millions of doses through their own bilateral agreements. BBC

Covid vaccine: India drones deliver Covid jabs to remote areas

Dr Samiran Panda said drones are being used to deliver doses in mountainous states in the country’s north-east.

India aims to vaccinate all eligible citizens by the end of 2021 but experts say the drive needs to pick up a consistent pace to meet the target.

India has so far given more than 925 million doses of three approved jabs.

About 70% of the country’s eligible population have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to official data.

India has reported more than 33 million Covid cases, second only to the US, and more than 440,000 deaths – behind the US and Brazil.

On Monday, India tested its first drone delivery of vaccines in the north-eastern state of Manipur.

A drone carrying ten doses flew from Bishnupur to a primary health clinic in the Karang island in Loktak – a 240-sq-km lake riddled with islands – in 12 minutes. The journey to Karang, where 3,500 people live, usually takes some four hours by boat and road.

Dr Panda, chief scientist and head of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said the trial run was successful and 10 people on the island took the jabs.

The states of Manipur and Nagaland are now likely to ferry doses to far-flung villages, a journey which often takes up to 12 hours by mountain roads and across streams, he added

Drones will also be used to ferry doses to the eastern archipelago of Andamans and Nicobar where “transportation by boat” was taking a long time.

“We are trying to make sure there are no outbreaks in these sparsely populated remote areas by vaccinating residents fast. If people get infected and contract severe disease they don’t have access to ventilators or intensive care or oxygen in these areas,” Dr Panda said.

The government is using drones which can carry a payload of 4.5kg or a maximum of 900 doses and fly at least 70km (43 miles) to ferry doses.

How is India’s rollout going?

Since 16 January, India has administered more than 925 million doses.

More than 670 million people have received the first dose and another 255 million or so have received both doses so far.

On 17 September, India administered more than 20 million doses in a day in a record-breaking effort to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday.

Experts say record-breaking days are encouraging but vaccination rates need to rise consistently. They estimate that India needs to give more than 10 million doses a day to fully vaccinate all eligible adults by the end of 2021.

Much will depend on levels of vaccine hesitancy and the availability of doses in the coming months.

India’s daily case count has been dropping – it has been reporting less than 40,000 new daily cases in the past month.

But doctors fear that a third wave is likelygiven that the country has fully reopened even as the threat of new variants looms large.

While the vaccination drive has gained momentum, experts worry about a gender gap – government data shows 6% fewer women are getting vaccinated. This is especially true in rural India where women have limited access to the internet and are hesitant or scared to take the vaccine.

Although a higher number of doses are being administered daily in rural areas, the share of population being vaccinated in urban areas is still greater. BBC