Ravaged by first wave, Italy ill-prepared as second COVID assault hits

By Giselda Vagnoni, Elvira Pollina and Emilio Parodi



a man and a woman standing in a room: Medical staff in Rome hospital treating Covid patients fear surge in infection numbers


© Reuters/YARA NARDI
Medical staff in Rome hospital treating Covid patients fear surge in infection numbers

ROME (Reuters) – One month ago, the World Health Organization posted a video praising Italians’ “strong and effective response” to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the time, Italy had one of the lowest infection rates in the Western world and appeared to have learnt the lessons of the first wave, which killed more people than anywhere else in Europe except Britain.

Now it appears that Italy, ahead of the rest of Europe when COVID-19 arrived, was simply behind the curve when it roared back as summer ended. New cases are rising at record rates, hitting 31,758 on Oct. 31 against around 2,500 at the start of the month, while deaths are up tenfold to more than 200 a day.

To be sure, many northern hemisphere countries are also facing a coronavirus resurgence. But just as Italy became a symbol of the perils of the virus, so its inability to protect against a second wave has underscored Europe’s failure to use the summer lull to bolster its defences, notably in tracing and testing.



a group of people standing in front of a crowd: FILE PHOTO: People protest against the government's measures to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Turin


© Reuters/MASSIMO PINCA
FILE PHOTO: People protest against the government’s measures to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Turin

“It is a monumental debacle. The fact that Italy is in the same situation as other countries in Europe is no comfort to me,” virologist Andrea Crisanti told Reuters. “We had five months to strengthen our surveillance, tracking and prevention systems and instead we are heading towards a new lockdown.”



a person wearing a helmet: FILE PHOTO: Italian restaurant and bar workers protest against the government's COVID-19 rules, in Rome


© Reuters/YARA NARDI
FILE PHOTO: Italian restaurant and bar workers protest against the government’s COVID-19 rules, in Rome

The government says it wants to avoid another national lockdown and denies failing to anticipate a second wave.

“There may have been mistakes, you can always do better but we have not underestimated the situation. We have worked on all fronts,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said last week.

Crisanti, who has become a celebrity with his dogged demands for more testing, published a letter with nine colleagues on Friday listing what they said were the government’s failings, along with recommendations.

One shortcoming, they said, was the system Italy had adopted to trace those who had contact with COVID sufferers and make sure they were tested.

In June, the government employed 9,000 people for this. That has risen to just 9,200, a third of the number Germany employs. The state placed adverts last week to recruit another 2,000.

“We warned the authorities from the very beginning that we would have needed much more people, and people professionally trained, for tracing COVID-19,” said Miria De Santis, head of the national association of health assistants.

“I think the authorities overlooked the risk of the second wave,” she told Reuters.

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Franco Locatelli, a leading member of the scientific committee that advises the government, denies the state lowered its guard, but acknowledges that the tracing system has been overwhelmed.

“COVID-19 tracking

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U.S. Hits Highest Single-Day Number of COVID-19 Cases for Any Country, England to Enter Lockdown

Karen Ducey/Getty

The U.S. recently reported the highest single-day number of COVID-19 cases for any country as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to plague the nation.

According to CNN, the U.S. reported 99,321 new cases on Friday, surpassing India’s daily record of 97,894 coronavirus cases in a single day on Sept. 17.

As of Saturday afternoon, more than 9,163,700 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 230,100 have died from the virus, according to a New York Times database.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN that the increase in cases could directly translate to an increase in deaths. “The 100,000 cases yesterday two weeks from now will start to translate into massive numbers of deaths,” he said. “So we’re going to see not just cases continue to escalate but we’re going to see perhaps 2,000 deaths per day two or three weeks from now.”

RELATED: Disneyland Paris Closes Again As Second Lockdown in France Begins

Former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen also warned that if American’s don’t continue to “implement targeted measures” like mask-wearing, shutting down high-risk businesses, and avoiding social gatherings, a lockdown may be in the future. “If we don’t do these things now, we’re going to be overwhelming our health systems and then a lockdown may be necessary,” she told CNN.

On Friday, the same day that the U.S. hit its record single day statistic, a new paper by researchers at Stanford University found that President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies led to a major number of the country’s coronavirus cases.

Karen Ducey/Getty

According to CNBC, after looking at 18 Trump rallies held between June 20 and Sept. 22 and analyzing subsequent COVID-19 data, researchers found that the rallies led to more than 30,000 cases. “The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” lead author B. Douglas Bernheim wrote.

Outside of the U.S., several other countries are continuing to struggle with the pandemic, including England which will be going into its second national lockdown next week.

On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country would be entering a month-long lockdown from Nov. 5 until Dec. 2.

RELATED: More Than 40 States Have Spiking COVID Cases and Midwestern Hospitals Are ‘Struggling’ to Keep Up

PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Pedestrians cross a street located in the mandatory face mask zone to limit COVID infections in Bordeaux on October 28, 2020, as France is set to put tough new measures in place.

“From Thursday until the start of December you must stay at home,” he said in a news

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U.S. Hits Record as Global Cases Top 45 Million: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — U.S. new cases topped 89,000, setting a daily record, as the outbreak intensifies ahead of next week’s presidential election. Global infections surpassed 45 million, with Europe also grappling to control a renewed surge in the disease across the continent.

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German cases exceeded 500,000 after a gain of more than 19,000 through early Friday, confirming a trend that Chancellor Angela Merkel has characterized as a “dramatic situation.” France’s economy staged a record rebound in the third quarter, but that recovery now risks being derailed by new government restrictions. Poland is set to announce new measures to curtail its outbreak and Ukraine reported records in both deaths and infections.

In the U.S., infections are again on the rise in New York and New Jersey, while Midwest states are suffering a record outbreak. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease doctor, predicted it could take until the end of 2021 at least for U.S. social life to return to normal even with an effective vaccine.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases surpass 45 million; deaths topped 1.18 millionMnuchin faults Pelosi as stimulus blame game heats upOperation Warp Speed could shape up to be an $18 billion bargainECB pushes governments to get on with spending in virus battleHow do people catch Covid-19?: QuickTakeVaccine Tracker: Clinical trials restart, providing hope

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

Sweden Earmarks More Cash for Testing (2:50 p.m. HK)

Sweden’s government has underestimated the cost of testing and tracing Covid-19 patients and the money that’s been earmarked for the purpose is now running out, TV4 reports.

The government will allocate an extra 3 billion kronor ($336 million) to pay for testing through the end of the year, bringing the total cost for testing and infection tracing this year to almost 10 billion kronor, according to the report.

Poland to Announce Restrictions on Friday (2:45 p.m. HK)

Poland’s health-care system is “stretched to its limits,” Michal Dworczyk, chief of staff in Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s office, says in interview with public radio 1.

Morawiecki has asked biggest state-run companies to build temporary hospitals in order to add more than 3,000 beds to treat Covid-19 patients.

Swiss Re Adds $500 Million to Reserves (2:31 p.m. HK)

Swiss Re added another $500 million in reserves for future claims as it warned about the high uncertainty that remains because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The re-insurer reported a net loss of $691 million for the first nine months of the year, driven by the increase in reserves it had to take for future claims, as the virus resurges and the threat of more lockdowns looms.

Lonza, AstraZeneca to Manufacture Antibody Combination (2:19 p.m. HK)

Lonza and AstraZeneca agreed to manufacture a combination of two long-acting antibodies for Covid-19 treatment called AZD7442, according to an SGX filing.

AZD7442 is currently in Phase 1 clinical studies and AstraZeneca plans to advance it into

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D.C. region hits 11-week high in coronavirus infections, but avoids spikes seen elsewhere

New coronavirus infections across the greater Washington region hit an 11-week high Wednesday, mirroring a rise seen across large swaths of the country as the pandemic’s spread worsens ahead of the cold winter months.

The rolling seven-day average of new infections across D.C., Virginia and Maryland stands at 1,949 cases, the most since the average reached 2,001 new cases on Aug. 9. Health experts said adherence to health precautions will limit further spread, but warned that residents might want to reconsider travel during the busy holiday season.

Despite the rise, caseloads in the capital region are far below those in many other states. Virginia is recording 14 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, a number that drops to 12 in Maryland and 10 in D.C. — about half the national average of 22.

By comparison, the state with the lowest rate is Vermont, at three new cases per 100,000 residents, while new daily infections have surged to 104 per 100,000 in North Dakota and South Dakota — more than 10 times the rate as the nation’s capital.

[Places in the U.S. with highest daily reported cases per capita]

Health experts said Wednesday that while the Washington region’s number of infections might rise further, they don’t expect large spikes like those in other parts of the country — assuming residents continue to follow standard guidelines of wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and not traveling for nonessential reasons.

Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVA Health in Charlottesville, said “virus fatigue” has started to set in, with some people opting out of precautions they took earlier in the pandemic. Cold weather is another factor, prompting residents to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity, creating an ideal environmental for the virus to spread.

“We are starting to see an uptick in the DMV of cases,” Sifri said. “But we’re fortunate that we’re one of a handful of states — Maryland, D.C. and Virginia — that are not seeing surges.”

[Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia]

He credited the region’s success with the widespread following of health guidelines, which he said were accompanied by less political tension than in other parts of the country.

Sifri said that as Halloween and Thanksgiving approach, actions taken now will help to determine how the virus is spreading as the December holidays and New Year’s get closer. Combating any virus is generally more difficult during the fall and winter months, he said, and the coronavirus is no exception.

“If we don’t do things well now, it could lead to a very bad holiday season,” he said.

In Virginia, Sifri said rural parts of the state continue to see a rise in infections, a shift from more densely populated areas hit early in the pandemic.

Virginia Department of Health data shows Northern Virginia saw its average number of new daily cases rise Wednesday to 271 — the highest in that region since mid-June. But much of the state’s rise is coming

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Coronavirus tally in D.C. region hits two-month high; Maryland’s Hogan says earlier restrictions unlikely

The seven-day average of new infections across the region stands at 1,874 cases, the highest since Aug. 13, when it stood at 1,916. The number of new cases reported Tuesday in D.C., Maryland and Virginia surpassed 2,000 for the fourth time this month, mirroring a rise seen across much of the country.

Hogan said Tuesday during a WBAL radio interview that the pandemic will probably get worse before it gets better but that it’s unlikely that restrictions imposed during the height of the pandemic will return to Maryland.

“I don’t anticipate going back to some of the measures we took before,” he said.

In March, hoping to stop the spread of the virus, Hogan issued a stay-at-home order that prohibited residents from leaving their houses unless they worked at an essential job or were buying groceries or medicine. Six weeks later, he began lifting some of those restrictions.

His gradual reopening of the state did not sit well with many members of the state’s Republican Party, some of whom wanted it to occur more quickly. ReOpen Maryland held rallies across the state and in Annapolis demanding an end to coronavirus-
related restrictions.

A poll conducted by Gonzales Research & Media Strategies, released Tuesday, shows more than a quarter of Republicans say the governor has done a fair or poor job handling the crisis, while 66 percent think he has handled it well. Meanwhile, 82 percent of Democrats give Hogan high marks for his handling of the virus.

Hogan said the state is “ready” for another wave.

“We do anticipate it getting worse in the fall, having a hospital surge, which is why we built 6,000 new hospital beds,” Hogan said of preparations taken earlier this year.

He said Marylanders should also brace themselves for the effect a second wave could have on the state’s economy as people become less comfortable with going to large gatherings and entertainment venues and eating inside restaurants.

The Gonzales poll found that 41 percent of Marylanders feel comfortable returning to their regular routine, while 57 percent say they do not feel comfortable resuming their pre-pandemic lives.

“Maryland has been one of the few that has kind of avoided [a big uptick in metrics] so far, but we don’t have any magic wall that’s going to keep the virus out of our state,” Hogan said.

The 897 new cases reported Tuesday in Maryland were the most in a single day since 922 cases were reported Aug. 9, while hospitalizations and test positivity rates have also ticked upward. The state also reported nine new fatalities.

The greater Washington region Tuesday recorded 2,125 new cases and 30 additional deaths. Virginia added 1,134 cases and 19 deaths, while D.C. added 94 cases and two deaths.

Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.

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White House science office says Trump ended COVID-19 pandemic as US hits record cases

The White House science office listed “ending the COVID-19 pandemic” as the top accomplishment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they’re getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE‘s first term, even as the U.S. has set records for new daily infections and numerous hospitals across the country are stretched to their breaking points.

According to a press release intending to highlight the administration’s science accomplishments, the Trump administration said it “has taken decisive actions to engage scientists and health professionals in academia, industry, and government to understand, treat, and defeat the disease.”

The rosy outlook flies in the face of reality, and underscores the efforts of Trump to continuously try to downplay the severity of the pandemic that continues to rage nearly uncontrolled across the country. 

As of Tuesday, more than 226,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19. The seven-day average of new cases is nearly 70,000, a record number that is only expected to get worse. Hospitalizations and deaths are also climbing steadily upward. According to the COVID Tracking Project, there are more than 42,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19, up from about 30,000 just a month ago.

Meanwhile, Trump has been holding rallies with thousands of people and minimal physical distancing or mask-wearing. He says the country is “rounding the turn,” has attacked the media for focusing too much on COVID-19 and claimed the rise in cases is merely because the U.S. is testing more people.

The office of Vice President Pence is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak a week before the election, and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: US sets a new record for average daily coronavirus cases | Meadows on pandemic response: ‘We’re not going to control it’ | Pelosi blasts Trump for not agreeing to testing strategy Hillicon Valley: Hospitals brace for more cyberattacks as coronavirus cases rise | Food service groups offer local alternatives to major delivery apps | Facebook says it helped 4.4M people register to vote Trump is cruising for a bruising MORE is under fire for saying the country is not going to control the virus.

Public health experts say that as the fall and winter progress, the situation is going to get much worse. Former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC Monday that the U.S. was at a “tipping point” of exponential spread in much of the country.

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Pfizer Reports Lower Earnings As Covid-19 Hits Revenues

Pfizer reported lower third-quarter profits Tuesday as Covid-19 dented demand for some medicines from patients whose regular health care patterns were disrupted.

The drugmaker, which is working on clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine, reported a 71 percent drop in profit to $2.2 billion. The year-ago period included a large gain connected to a transaction.

Revenues dipped four percent to $12.1 billion, missing analyst estimates.

Pfizer estimated a revenue hit of $500 million connected to Covid-19 due to lower pharma demand in China and fewer wellness visits from patients in the US.

Pfizer reported lower third-quarter profits, in part due to lower pharma demand as patients' normal patterns of healthcare were disrupted due to Covid-19 Pfizer reported lower third-quarter profits, in part due to lower pharma demand as patients’ normal patterns of healthcare were disrupted due to Covid-19 Photo: AFP / DOMINICK REUTER

The company saw an 11 percent drop in its hospital business in emerging markets, primarily due to fewer elective surgeries in China and shorter in-patient hospital stays in the country.

This effect was partially offset by increased demand for the Prevnar-13 vaccine for pneumonia “resulting from greater vaccine awareness for respiratory illnesses,” the company said.

Pfizer also cited strong performance in its biopharma business due to good sales for cancer drug Ibrance, anticoagulant Eliquis and other medications.

Pfizer said its Phase 3 Covid-19 trial had enrolled more than 40,000 participants, with nearly 36,000 having received their second vaccination as of Monday.

Shares rose 0.7 percent to $38,20 in pre-market trading.

Copyright AFP. All rights reserved.

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Sanders hits back at Trump’s attack on ‘socialized medicine’

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Sanders: Progressives will work to ‘rally the American people’ if Biden wins MORE (I-Vt.) lashed out at President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: ‘I would transition from the oil industry’ MORE in a new video Friday, criticizing the president for attacking “socialized medicine” during the presidential debate this week against Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: ‘I would transition from the oil industry’ MORE.

“Last night during the debate, Donald Trump attacked Medicare for All as [socialized medicine], and what I find very amusing is that I didn’t hear him complain when he received the best socialized medical care in the world for free at a 100 percent government-run hospital,” Sanders said in the video shared to Twitter.

“So, interesting, what we have is a Donald Trump who loves, enjoys benefits from socialism for himself,” Sanders continued. “But for the rest of us he wants rugged individualism.”

The video features footage of the president complimenting the medical care that he received at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19, as well as footage of Trump during the Thursday debate and more.

In one clip Trump is seen saying “You know, I have such great access to medical” and “it’s good to be president, I guess.” 

Trump during the Thursday debate accused Biden of wanting to eliminate private health insurance.

“Under what he wants to do, which will basically be socialized medicine, he won’t even have a choice, they want to terminate 180 million plans,” Trump said.  

Later, he also claimed that vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Obama says he voted by mail: ‘It’s not as tough as a lot of folks think’ Clean energy opportunities in a time of crisis MORE (D-Calif.) has also pushed for “socialized medicine.”

“He wants socialized medicine. And it’s not that he wants it. His vice president, she is more liberal than Bernie Sanders and wants it even more. Bernie Sanders wants it. The Democrats want it,” Trump said. 

The Biden campaign’s plan for health care reform does not back removing private health insurance plans. Instead, Biden’s health plan will build on ObamaCare and will include a government-run “public option” that is similar to Medicare.

A public option would compete with private health care plans to give users the best prices, and patients can choose whether they want to enroll.

Biden during

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PM admits failings as England’s Covid contact-tracing system hits new low

Boris Johnson and his chief scientific adviser have admitted to failings in England’s £12bn test-and-trace system as contact-tracing fell to a new low and waiting times for test results soared to almost double the target.



a group of people walking down a street next to a car: Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images


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Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Under pressure to explain new figures showing less than 60% of close contacts being reached, while test turnaround times rose to nearly 48 hours, the prime minister said: “I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we need to improve it.”

The system, designed to contain outbreaks by ensuring anyone exposed to the virus self-isolates, was helping “a bit”, Johnson added. “The thing depends on people self-isolating and breaking the transmission. It is helping a bit already to break the transmission. About 1m contacts have been reached. But there is more that it can do if everybody complies once they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.”



a person riding on the back of a car: Workers at a drive-in Covid testing centre. In the week ending 14 October, 59.6% of close contacts were reached by test and trace.


© Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Workers at a drive-in Covid testing centre. In the week ending 14 October, 59.6% of close contacts were reached by test and trace.

Alongside him at a Downing Street press conference, Sir Patrick Vallance said problems with test and trace were in part inevitable as coronavirus cases rose in the second wave – but also a result of the system’s operation. They were “diminishing its effectiveness”, he said.

Another expert said test and trace was “struggling to make any difference to the pandemic”.

In the week ending 14 October, 59.6% of close contacts were reached, down from the previous week’s figure of 62.6%, which was the lowest since the test-and-trace operation was launched at the end of May.

Sage said in May that at least 80% of contacts must be reached for the system, described as “world-beating” by the government, to be effective. Documents published last week show Sage considers its success to be “marginal”.

In fact the true proportion of contacts of Covid patients reached is lower still: the latest report reveals 101,494 people tested positive but only 96,521 were transferred to the contact-tracing system, of whom just over 80% were reached and asked to provide information about their contacts. That means, overall, only 46% of close contacts were reached.

The latest performance statistics, published on Thursday, also showed Boris Johnson is further from delivering on his pledge that the results of all in-person tests will be returned within 24 hours.

The median time taken to receive a test result at regional sites rose to 45 hours, from 28 the previous week. Local test site result times increased to 47 hours from 29, and mobile test units rose to 41 hours from 26.

Vallance told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday: “It’s really important to concentrate on numbers of contacts [and] isolation as quickly as you can and getting things back as quickly as you can, ideally to get the whole process done within 48 hours. And it’s very clear there’s room

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Restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended into November, outbreak hits three Ontario hospitals

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Canada-U.S.border restrictions extended

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, announced Monday the non-essential travel restrictions between the Canada-U.S. border will remain until Nov. 21.

“Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair’s tweet reads.

Traditional trick-or-treating not recommended in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York Region

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, issued a statement on Monday indicating that “traditional door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended” in cities in modified Stage 2 restrictions – Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York Region.

In the statement, Dr. Williams states this is due to the “high transmission” of COVID-19 in these areas.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health recommends “alternative” was to celebrate Halloween in these regions, which include:

  • Encouraging kids to dress up and participate in virtual activities and parties

  • Organizing a Halloween candy hunt with people living in their own household

  • Carving pumpkins

  • Having a movie night or sharing scary stories

  • Decorating front lawns

“It is recommended that you also check with your local municipality or public health unit for any additional advice or restrictions that may be in place,” the statement reads. “It is also critical that families not travel outside of their neighbourhood to celebrate Halloween.”

In order to have a “safe and happy Halloween” in Ontario, Dr. Williams stressed that Ontarios need to avoid gathering with people outside of their household, stay home if feeling at all ill.

For people living outside of the modified Stage 2 regions, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health outlined a number of rules to follow for trick-or-treating.

  • Only go out with members of your household

  • Only trick or treat outside

  • Both trick or treaters and people handing out candy should wear a face covering and a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering but also should not be worn over a face covering as it may make it difficult to breathe

  • Do not congregate or linger at doorsteps and remember to line up two metres apart if waiting

  • Avoid high-touch surfaces and objects

  • Whether collecting or handing out treats, wash your hands often and thoroughly, or use hand sanitizer

  • Do not leave treats in a bucket or bowl for children to grab and consider using tongs or similar tools to hand out treats

CASES AND OUTBREAKS

Three Toronto hospitals report COVID-19 outbreak

Three Toronto hospitals are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks as confirmed cases in the city continue to rise.

UHN has confirmed that as of Oct. 16,

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