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

Some Home Remedies for Hemorrhoids.

Treating hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids, sometimes called piles, are swollen veins in your anus and rectum. Common symptoms can include pain, itching, and rectal bleeding. They can develop inside or outside of the anus and rectum, called internal and external hemorrhoids, respectively. Hemorrhoids are an extremely common problem. While they typically go away in a few weeks on their own, they can cause mild to severe discomfort. Home remedies can make them more tolerable.

1. Witch hazel

Witch hazel can reduce both itching and pain, two main symptoms of hemorrhoids. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, so it could also reduce swelling. Witch hazel can be purchased in liquid form and applied directly to the hemorrhoids. It can also be found in products like anti-itch wipes and soaps.

2. Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel has been used historically to treat hemorrhoids and various skin conditions. It’s thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, which might help reduce irritation. The gel can be found as an ingredient in other products, but you should only use pure aloe vera gel on hemorrhoids. Pure aloe vera gel can also be harvested directly from inside an aloe plant’s leaves. Some people are allergic to aloe vera, particularly those who are allergic to garlic or onions. Check for allergic reaction by rubbing a dime-sized amount onto your forearm. Wait 24 to 48 hours. If no reaction occurs, it should be safe to use.

3. Warm bath with Epsom salt

Warm baths can help soothe the irritation from hemorrhoids. You can use a sitz bath, which is a small plastic tub that fits over a toilet seat, or take a full-body bath in your tub. Taking a warm bath for 20 minutes after every bowel movement will be most effective. Adding Epsom salts to the bath can provide further relief by reducing pain.

4. Over-the-counter ointments

Over-the-counter ointments and creams can be found in almost every drug store and can offer immediate relief. Some can even reduce swelling and help your hemorrhoid to heal faster. If you use a cream with hydrocortisone, though, don’t use it for more than a week at a time.

5. Soothing wipes

Using toilet paper after a bowel movement can aggravate existing hemorrhoids. Wipes can help keep you clean without causing further irritation. For an added boost, you can find wipes with soothing, anti-hemorrhoid ingredients, like witch hazel or aloe vera. Make sure that the wipes you choose don’t have alcohol, perfume, or other irritants in them. These substances could aggravate symptoms instead of relieving them.

6. Cold compresses

Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the anus to relieve swelling for 15 minutes at a time. For large, painful hemorrhoids, this can be an extremely effective treatment. Always wrap ice inside a cloth or paper towel, and never apply something frozen directly to the skin.

7. Stool softeners

stool softeners or fiber supplements, like psyllium, can help reduce constipation, make stool softer, and make it easier to have quick, painless bowel movements. Many of these stool softeners come in forms like powders, capsules, and liquids that you take by mouth between once and three times a day.

8. Loose, cotton clothing

Swapping out tight clothes made with polyester with ultra-breathable cotton (especially cotton underwear) can help keep the anal area both clean and dry. This can potentially reduce symptoms. Avoid using perfumed detergents or fabric softeners to reduce irritation.

Preventing hemorrhoids

Lifestyle and dietary changes are the best way to prevent hemorrhoids. Staying physically active and eating healthy help to keep your bowel movements regular. Eat lots of high-fiber foods (especially from plants) and drink plenty of water to keep the digestive process moving correctly and prevent constipation. Regular exercise and avoiding sitting for long periods of time can also help prevent hemorrhoids. The most effective way to avoid constipation is to go to the bathroom when you first feel the urge. Delaying a bowel movement allows the bowel to reabsorb water from the stool. This makes stool harder when you finally do go.

When to see your doctor

Hemorrhoids are typically easy to treat and clear up on their own. In very rare cases, a hemorrhoid could cause complications. Chronic blood loss from a hemorrhoid could cause anemia, which is a shortage of red blood cells. Internal hemorrhoids can also have their blood supply cut off, resulting in strangulated hemorrhoids, which can cause extreme pain. If home treatments haven’t been effective after more than two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your primary care physician can diagnose and treat hemorrhoids. They can write prescriptions for medicated creams, ointments, and suppositories. If these treatments don’t work, they may recommend treatments like rubber band litigation or surgery to remove the hemorrhoids. You should also make an appointment to see your doctor right away if you notice rectal bleeding for the first time or if your rectal bleeding increases.

Covid-19: France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers

About 3,000 health workers in France have been suspended because they have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

A new rule, which came into force on Wednesday, made vaccination mandatory for the country’s 2.7 million health, care home and fire service staff.

But French Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Thursday that “most of the suspensions are only temporary”.

Many are now agreeing to get jabbed because “they see that the vaccination mandate is a reality”, he said.

The rule applies to all doctors, nurses, office staff and volunteers.

President Emmanuel Macron first gave workers notice of the rule change on 12 July, warning them that they needed to get at least one jab by 15 September or resign from their jobs.

“I am aware of what I am asking of you, and I know that you are ready for this commitment, this is part, in a way, of your sense of duty,” he said at the time.

After the president’s announcement, Doctolib, the website people use to book their jabs, crashed as so many people tried secure appointments.

But with the mandate now in place, and thousands still refusing to get the vaccine, there are fears of a disruption to healthcare services.

In just one hospital in Nice in southern France, for example, almost 450 workers have been suspended – sparking protests outside the building.

And in another southern city, Montélimar, one hospital confirmed that it had already begun cancelling non-urgent operations because of a shortage of vaccinated anaesthetists, AFP news agency reports.

“We have to keep these people on the job until they have been replaced,” Christophe Prudhomme, an emergency doctor and left-wing MP, said.

But Mr Véran told French RTL radio on Thursday that “the continuity of care and the security of care and quality of care were assured yesterday in all hospitals and medico-social facilities”, although a few services, such as MRI scans, were impacted for a few hours.

He added that the suspensions mainly affected support staff, and “few white coats”. There have also been “a few dozen resignations” across the country, he said.

When the vaccines were first rolled out globally, France was one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world.

Then, about 40% of eligible people said they planned to get immunised, according to a survey by Ipsos. At the same time research from BBC Monitoring found that the number of followers of French-language pages sharing anti-vaccine content grew in 2020, from 3.2m to almost 4.1m likes.

But since the introduction of a Covid “health pass” in July, France has become one of the world’s most vaccinated countries.

Almost 90% of all adults have now had at least one jab. France has also started vaccinating children aged 12 and over, and is administering booster jabs to vulnerable people.

Vaccine mandates elsewhere in the world

France is not the only country to introduce a vaccine mandate.

Italy is also making an anti-Covid “green pass” mandatory for all employees from 15 October, meaning that workers who can’t show proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test will be penalised.

“The government is ready to speed up on the ‘green pass’… (for) not just the public sector, but private too,” regional affairs minister Mariastella Gelmini said on Wednesday.

The green pass is already required for anyone in Italy who wants to eat indoors at restaurants, go to cinemas and sports stadiums, and take certain public transport or flights. It is also already mandatory for teachers.

In Greece, unvaccinated public and private sector employees have to have Covid tests once or twice a week, at their own expense. The rule came into force on 13 September.

And last week, the US made vaccines mandatory for federal government workers and contractors, and for all businesses with more than 100 employees. The rule affects covers about 100 million workers. BBC

Covid: Vaccine volunteers sought for children’s second dose study

A trial to test how well second doses of different coronavirus vaccines work in children is looking for volunteers.

Scientists want to see if giving two doses of different vaccines gives as good an immune response as two doses of the same vaccine.

The study, running at University Hospital Southampton, is looking for 360 volunteers aged 12-16 to take part.

From Monday, children aged 12 to 15 in the UK are to be offered one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The year-long trial is taking place in four locations in the UK – University Hospital Southampton, University of Oxford, St George’s University Hospital in London and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

It will see the volunteers given a full standard dose of Pfizer vaccine.

About eight weeks later they will then be given a second dose of one of the following:

  • A full standard dose of Pfizer vaccine
  • A half standard dose of Pfizer vaccine
  • A full dose of Novavax vaccine
  • A half dose of Moderna vaccine

However, they will not know which second dose vaccine they have received.

The vaccine has already been offered to those aged 16 and above. However 16-year-olds who have already received one dose are eligible for the trial.

Dr Katrina Cathie, from University Hospital Southampton, said initial results of the trial were expected at about Christmas and would “directly inform decisions about the roll-out of a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in this age group in the spring”.

Volunteers need to attend up to six study visits over the next year.

University Hospital Southampton said the visits would be “primarily after school and at weekends to avoid disruption to schooling”.

The study is being led by the University of Oxford and funded by the UK Vaccine Task Force and the National Institute of Health Research. BBC

Covid deaths rare among fully vaccinated – ONS

Out of more than 51,000 Covid deaths in England between January and July 2021, only 256 occurred after two doses.

They were mostly people at very high risk from illness from Covid-19.

The figures show the high degree of protection from the vaccines against illness and death, the ONS said.

Some deaths after vaccination were always expected because vaccines are not 100% effective, and it takes a couple of weeks after your second dose to build the fullest protection.

Of the 51,281 deaths involving Covid registered in England between 2 January and 2 July 2021:

  • both vaccine doses
  • This total includes people who had been infected before they were vaccinated
  • Some 458 deaths (0.8%) were people who died at least 21 days after their second dose
  • Just 256 deaths (0.5%) were people who were both fully vaccinated and who had their first positive PCR test at least 14 days after their second dose

“Breakthrough” deaths – occurring at least two weeks after the second jab along with a first positive PCR Covid test – tend to happen in the most vulnerable, men and those with weakened immune systems, with the average age being 84.

But overall numbers were very small – they accounted for only 0.5% of all deaths from Covid-19 over the first six months of the year.

Julie Stanborough, from the ONS, said: “Our new analysis shows that, sadly, there have been deaths of people involving Covid-19 despite them being fully vaccinated.

“However, we’ve also found that the risk of a death involving Covid-19 is much lower among people who are fully vaccinated than those who are unvaccinated.”

Among those who died after two doses, 13% were immunocompromised, 61% were male and more than 75% were clinically extremely vulnerable.

In the UK, 80% of people aged 16 and over have had two doses and nearly 90% have had one dose. BBC

Galleri cancer test: What is it and who can get it?

It’s hoped the Galleri test can detect more than 50 types of the disease before symptoms appear.

What is the Galleri cancer test?

It’s a simple blood test that looks for the earliest signs of cancer, particularly those that are typically difficult to identify early or for which there are no NHS screening programmes – such as lung, pancreas or stomach cancers.

Developed by Californian firm Grail – and already used in the US – the test can detect subtle changes caused by cancers, when patients may have no other obvious symptoms.

It works by finding chemical changes in fragments of genetic code – cell-free DNA (cfDNA) – that leak from tumours into the bloodstream.

The signal does not mean that a person definitely has cancer. It just means that they might have cancer, and that they will need to have some follow-up tests to check.

“This quick and simple blood test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment here and around the world,” says NHS England’s Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard.

Who can volunteer for the NHS-Galleri trial?

The trial aims to recruit 140,000 volunteers across England.

But only people living in these areas can take part and they must be invited:

  • Cheshire and Merseyside
  • Cumbria
  • Greater Manchester
  • the North East
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands
  • East of England
  • Kent and Medway
  • South East London

Letters have already been sent to tens of thousands of people asking them to take part.

Those being asked are aged between 50 and 77, from a range of backgrounds and ethnicities, and must not have had a cancer diagnosis in the past three years.

How will the trial work?

Participants will be asked to give a blood sample at a locally based mobile clinic.

They will then be invited back twice – after 12 months and two years – to give further samples.

Half those taking part will have their blood screened with the Galleri test immediately.

However, others will simply have their samples stored away to be tested in the future – should they go on to be diagnosed with cancer.

This is because the trial is what’s known as a Randomised Control Trial (RCT).

It will allow scientists to see whether cancer is detected significantly earlier among people who have their blood tested straight away.

Will participants know if their blood has been tested?

People will only know they’re in the first test group if they are among the small minority whose blood test detects potential signs of cancer.

Those people will be contacted by the trial nurses by phone and referred to an NHS hospital for further tests.

Everyone taking part will be advised to continue with their standard NHS screening appointments and to still contact their GP if they notice any new or unusual symptoms.

What is the aim of the trial?

The NHS hopes the blood tests will help increase five-year survival rates for cancer, which are below the levels seen in many other high-income countries.

Developing a blood test for cancer has been keeping scientists busy for many years without much success.

Making one that’s accurate and reliable has proved incredibly complex. The danger is that a test doesn’t detect a person’s cancer when they do have it, or it indicates someone has cancer when they don’t.

“The test could be a game-changer for early cancer detection,” says Prof Peter Sasieni, one of the trial’s lead investigators. But he adds a note of caution:

“Cancer screening can find cancers earlier when they are more likely to be treated successfully, but not all types of screening work.”

What difference could it make to cancer patients?

Patients whose cancers are found early – known as stage one or two – typically have a broader range of treatment options available to them, which can often be less aggressive.

NHS England says a patient diagnosed at the earliest stage typically has between five and 10 times the chance of surviving compared with those found at the more advanced stage four.

Initial results from the Galleri study are expected by 2023. If successful, the NHS in England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025. BBC