MERS Coronavirus warning

I dunno, Terminal, it's complicated as heck when I think about it. Did you know there was a 7% DECREASE in lung cancer deaths during the pandemic (in the UK)? Sounds good, but it's more likely an under-detection of lung cancer. One of the cancer charities reckons there's 50,000 'missing' cancer patients.

That's a lot of excess cancer deaths to come (if they're not already here), and these won't be 82.5 year olds (the average age of UK covid deaths); they'll be young mums in their 30s with children, dying of breast cancer.

I just hope in hindsight that lockdowns were the correct approach.
The public health experts and officials in Canada are pretty much all saying that we're getting close to the end of the game. We needed to get a high percentage of vaccination and we did that in less than a year and the vaccines unquestionably work at doing what they are intended to do.

Once we are through this wave then I have been told that nearly everybody will have been either vaccinated, recovered from infection, or dead. Unless we get another really unusual variant, this is probably the last of the lockdowns unless some really serious and unexpected variant comes along.
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Thursday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

In Canada, hospitalizations appear to have peaked in Quebec and Ontario announced it's plan for gradually easing restrictions as the omicron wave passes.
Quebec seems to have reached a peak in COVID-19 hospitalizations, but the province "can't afford" to lift any more measures aimed at slowing the spread of infections, Premier François Legault said Thursday.

In neighbouring Ontario, Premier Doug Ford on Thursday announced a phased approach to lifting restrictions.

Austria will make vaccination mandatory for residents 18 years of age or older, starting the 1st of February.
In Europe, Austria's parliament voted on Thursday to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for residents 18 and older, beginning Feb. 1, the first measure of its kind in Europe.

France will start easing restrictions in February.
Meanwhile, France will ease work-from-home rules from early February and allow nightclubs to reopen two weeks later, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.

Caps on the number of people allowed into sports and entertainment venues will also be lifted on Feb. 2, and masks will no longer be required outdoors from that date.

Mexico reported 60,000 new cases.
Mexico registered a record daily increase of more than 60,000 new cases, as the country steps up testing for the virus.

In Hong Kong, secondary schools will go on line starting Monday.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong will suspend face-to-face teaching in secondary schools from Monday until after the approaching Lunar New Year, authorities said, because of a rising number of coronavirus infections in several schools.

In Africa, public health authorities say they want donated vaccines to have a shelf life of 3 to 6 months so they can plan roll outs and don't end up throwing out expired doses.
In Africa, top public health bodies called for donated vaccines to come with a shelf life of three to six months so countries could plan their rollouts and avoid a situation where doses expire.

South African reported 4,322 cases and 156 deaths. The latter figure includes clearing out a backlog of reporting.
Health officials in South Africa on Wednesday reported an additional 4,322 cases and 156 deaths, though officials noted there was a backlog of deaths.

Algeria will close schools for 10 days due to omicron.
Meanwhile, in Algeria, officials announced that elementary and secondary schools would be closed for a period of 10 days in the face of a wave of Omicron cases.

Saudi Arabia reported 5,591 cases and 2 deaths. As of the 1st of February people will have to show proof of a booster dose to go to places such as malls and restaurants.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia reported two additional deaths and 5,591 additional cases of COVID-19. The country recently announced that as of Feb. 1, people will need to show proof of having a booster dose to get into certain public spaces, like malls and restaurants.
The following article talks about Spain's plans to transition from pandemic mode to endemic mode. It discusses the problems that Spain will need to deal with, and also more briefly mentions that Portugal and Britain are facing similar choices.
Spain locked down hard to fight COVID-19 - now it's preparing to live with the virus

A major point to keep in mind is that this isn't simply a matter of a government deciding to do things differently. First the situation has to settle down such that the infections are a steady low level background problem rather than having large repeated waves of infections causing crises. Spain's high vaccination rate is helping them reach this goal.

The article contrasts this with Germany and Austria whose comparatively low vaccination rates mean that they will have difficulty reaching this state.
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Friday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

Ireland appear to be past the peak of omicron and plan to relax restrictions significantly. The high rate of booster vaccines administered has helped keep hospitalizations comparatively low, making this change possible.
Ireland is to scrap almost all its COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday after a major surge in infections did not lead to a significant increase in the numbers requiring intensive hospital care, a senior minister said.

Ireland had the second-highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in Europe just last week but also one of the continent's highest uptake of booster vaccines, which has helped keep the number of seriously ill people well below the previous peak.

In Canada, the national head of public health said that the country may be past the peak of infection. Hospitalizations are currently at the highest level during the entire pandemic and are still rising.
Canada 'may' have passed peak of Omicron wave, says top doctor
Canada may have passed the peak of the Omicron wave but the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 is now at its highest level since the pandemic began, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said today.

"In the weeks since the modelling update, there are early indications that infections may have peaked at the national level, including daily case counts, test positivity, Rt or the effective reproduction number and wastewater surveillance trends," Tam said today.

Nationally, the average daily case count has decreased by 28 per cent since last week. Tam warned that, because lab testing can't keep up with demand as Omicron spreads, that count may underestimate the actual number of cases.

In the EU, health ministers are trying to come up with a common policy on fourth jabs.
In Europe, health ministers in the European Union will try to find a common line on Friday over a potential fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines, amid a surge in cases sparked by the Omicron variant.

In Russia, new cases are at an all time high due to omicron, with the latest figure being 49,513 new cases. There were record numbers of new cases in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russians are being urged to get jabbed.
Meanwhile, daily new coronavirus infections in Russia reached an all-time high Friday and authorities blamed the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova on Friday noted "intensive spread of the Omicron variant" and said the authorities "expect it to become the dominating" variant driving the outbreak. The state coronavirus task force Golikova heads reported 49,513 new infections on Friday.

Record numbers of new cases were reported respectively in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city. In light of the surge, health officials in St. Petersburg on Friday limited elective outpatient care.

In Hong Kong, police will get involved with the cull of hamsters, some of which were earlier found to be infected. Animal lovers are trying to interfere with people having their pets put down.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong police will deal with pet lovers who try to stop people giving up their hamsters to be put down, or who offer to care for abandoned hamsters, authorities said, after they ordered a cull of the cuddly rodents to curb the coronavirus.

In Bangladesh, schools and universities will close for 2 weeks.
Bangladesh closed all schools and colleges for two weeks to counter an "alarming" rise in infections, just four months after ending a lengthy year school closure imposed due to coronavirus.

Japan have tightened restrictions.
Japan acted to contain a record surge in cases with a return to curbs that have, however, shown diminishing results, while a laggard vaccine booster program leaves many people vulnerable to breakthrough infections.

In Nepal, schools are closed, religious festivals are banned, hotels must test guests every 3 days, and people are required to carry vaccination cards.
Nepal's capital shut schools, ordered citizens to carry vaccination cards in public, banned religious festivals and instructed hotel guests to be tested every three days as it battles its biggest COVID-19 outbreak.

In Israel, children are no longer required to quarantine if exposed to COVID-19 contacts. Infection numbers are rising fast in Israel, and the quarantine requirements were causing problems for parents.
In the Middle East, Israel will ditch mandatory quarantine for children exposed to COVID-19 carriers, the government said on Thursday, citing a need to relieve parents and schools as case numbers spiral due to the fast-spreading but low-morbidity Omicron variant.

Brazil have approved the Sinovac vaccine for ages 6 to 17. They have 6 million doses available.
Brazil approved China's Sinovac shot for children ages six to 17. The country's deputy health minister told a news conference the ministry has six million doses of the vaccine available. Brazil has also rescheduled its Carnival celebration, usually held in February, for April.
The following is on how sewage monitoring is being used to track COVID-19 in Ontario Canada.
Ontario sewage tests indicate slow decline of COVID-19 infection rates

Sewage tests covering 75 per cent of the population of the province are being used to track the prevalence of COVID-19. This basically does a PCR test on sewage samples to detect virus particles which have been expelled from the body into the sewage system.

The amount of virus present will correspond to how many people are infected as how much virus they are expelling. While this doesn't tell you who is infected, it does provide a good way of tracking trends for monitoring purposes.

The monitoring currently shows that omicron has peaked or levelled off in Ontario.

The article would mainly be of interest in those interested in knowing how sewage monitoring is used. There have been suggestions that the method should be made a permanent part of the public health monitoring system.
In Nova Scotia, researchers have done a study showing the effectiveness of swabbing both the nose and the back of the throat to produce more reliable results when doing rapid tests for omicron.
Using rapid tests? N.S. Health now recommends swabbing both throat and nose

When testing only the nose or throat, rapid tests were only 64.5 per cent reliable as compared to PCR tests. By combining the two that was raised to 88.7 per cent.

Nova Scotia are updating their testing instructions based on this study.

While this method has been discussed before and people have been doing it, this is a proper study measuring the increase in reliability of it.

I should point out that these are rapid tests, not PCR tests.
The following video is good for those who want a detailed explanation of T cell immunity and why T cells are less affected by changes in variants than antibodies. It gets a bit technical at times, so you'll have to be tolerant of not understanding what they are talking about at some points.

This particular Youtube channel is a bit different from that which certain others post in that the people presenting it have Phds in subject such as virology and when they "do their own research" they do it in a virology lab.

The following article discusses the pros and cons of deciding whether to put anti-vaxxers lower down on the health care priority list.
Public outrage over the unvaccinated is driving a crisis in bioethics

The con is that past practice has been to ignore how someone got themselves into the hospital and treat them according to their current circumstance.

The pro is that normal people are dying in significant numbers for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 due to hospitals being packed with unvaccinated patients who have COVID-19.

The view has been that vaccine refusers have mainly been victims of misinformation put out by the hard core anti-vaxxers. However, some people are coming around to the view that these people have made an autonomous choice and they should have to live with it rather than victimizing other people who are innocent.
Udo Schuklenk, Ontario Research Chair in bioethics at Queens University and co-editor of the journal Bioethics, questions the argument that vaccine refusers are victims of misinformation.

"There's many people in my field who go on about equity considerations, and [how] these people don't know better and they have been misled," he said. "And my view is, they have made their autonomous choice.

"And if you're telling me that they are unable to make a sensible choice, then we should take this choice away from them. But we should not, on the one hand, give them this choice, and then not hold them accountable for it.

"The vast majority of people in my field of bioethics would disagree with me on what I just said. They'd say there's many people who don't know better and have been misled. And my point is, that may well be true, but then this should have a consequence on the kind of choices that these people are permitted to make."'

A German study on health care priorities referenced in the article found that the public were likely to be in favour of giving fewer ICU resources to unvaccinated COVID-19 patients than to either vaccinated COVID-19 patients or to non COVID-19 patients such as someone with a heart attack.

A lay perspective on prioritization for intensive care in pandemic times: Vaccination status matters
This article reports an experiment that investigated the German public’s prioritization preferences during the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic (N = 1,014). In a series of scenarios, participants were asked to decide on ICU admission for patients who differed in terms of health condition, expected treatment benefits, and vaccination status. The results reveal an ingroup bias, as vaccinated individuals preferred to allocate more resources to the vaccinated than to the unvaccinated. Participants also favored admitting a heart attack patient rather than a COVID-19 patient with the same likelihood of benefiting from ICU admission, indicating a preference for maintaining regular ICU services rather than treating those with severe COVID-19.

Another idea being floated is to divide up the available COVID-19 beds in proportion to population. The example given is that if 10 per cent of the population are willingly unvaccinated (i.e. they have no valid medical reason not to) then they would get 10 per cent of the available hospital COVID-19 beds in the event of a shortage of resources. Since the unvaccinated currently take up 80 per cent of the beds, most unvaccinated people would not get hospital care in the the event of a shortage. However, the rest of the population may have a better chance of survival as they would have better access to available resources.
Another compromise floated by some bioethicists is the idea of proportional allocation of resources between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

"Say there's 10 per cent of Canadians who are unvaccinated," said Schuklenk, "and they have no excuses, like a medical exemption. These colleagues have proposed saying, 'OK, there's ten per cent of Canadians who are unvaccinated, so we should make ten per cent of COVID beds available to them but no more.'

"I think it's at least worth thinking about."

In Canada — where the unvaccinated make up less than 10 per cent of the over-12 population but occupy nearly 80 per cent of hospital beds — such a division could deny treatment to the great majority of unvaccinated COVID sufferers during periods of peak demand.

But other patients — the ones now being denied treatment to accommodate the unvaccinated — might have a better chance at survival.

The story comes to no conclusions, but rather presents the arguments for and against. IT does however provide some interesting things to think about.
I thought this was an interesting graphic for London considering that the vaccination rates are quite low in some areas.


The bus driver's son is not going to like that one little bit.
Here is a belated COVID-19 summary for Saturday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Jan. 22

In Canada, hospitalizations fell slightly in Ontario and Quebec, but ICU occupancy rose. The number of hospitalizations across Canada during the omicron wave has exceeded that of any previous wave. Testing, positivity rates, and sewage monitoring has shown that the omicron wave has peaked in Canada nationally.
Ontario reported a drop in COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Saturday, but the numbers remained high in the country's most populous provinces, which have been hit hard by the pandemic's Omicron-driven fifth wave.

Despite drops of 88 and 56 hospitalizations in Ontario and Quebec, respectively, there were still more than 7,300 virus-related hospitalizations between the two provinces.

There was also an uptick in patients requiring intensive care, with Ontario reporting 600 patients in ICUs while Quebec had 275 patients listed — in both cases a rise of 10 patients compared with the previous day.

During a briefing on Friday, Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said despite signs of stability in patient numbers in some provinces, the toll on hospitals remains heavy, and many hospitals across Canada are under intense strain.

Anti-vaxxers protested in Athens, Helsinki, London, Paris, and Stockholm.
In Europe, thousands of people gathered to protest vaccine passports and other requirements imposed by governments in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic. Demonstrations took place in Athens, Helsinki, London, Paris and Stockholm.

In Brazil, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival will be held in late April instead of the end of February.
In the Americas, the world-famous Carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro will be held in late April rather than the final weekend of February, as the number of coronavirus cases in Brazil spikes and the Omicron variant spreads across the country.

Samoa are in a 48 hour lockdown after 15 passengers flying from Australia tested positive.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the prime minister of Samoa has placed the small island nation into a 48-hour lockdown after 15 passengers on a flight from Australia tested positive for COVID-19.
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Sunday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday

In Canada, restrictions were eased in Quebec with non-essential stored re-opening on Sunday after a 3 week ban on Sunday shopping. Quebec have also expanded the use of their vaccine passport system.
The numbers came as most Quebec stores reopened their doors following a three-week ban on Sunday shopping imposed by the government in a bid to curb hospitalization rates that soared once the pandemic's Omicron-driven wave took hold. The province closed non-essential businesses for three Sundays starting Jan. 2, making exceptions only for pharmacies, convenience stores and gas stations.

In Belgium, police used water cannon and tear gas on anti-vaxxers. Reports said that the protesters had travelled from France and Germany as well as Belgium to take part. Photos in the story show protesters throwing fireworks, smashing up buildings, and the usual. Three police and 12 protesters required hospital treatment, and 70 people were detained.
In Europe, police in Belgium fired water cannons and tear gas in Brussels on Sunday to disperse protesters marching against COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions.

South Korea reported 7,630 new cases, their second highest number ever. There are concerns about increased spread during the upcoming Lunar New Year.
In Asia, South Korea posted 7,630 new cases — its second highest daily number — despite extended restrictions and a high vaccination rate, raising concerns of further spread during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
Here is the COVID-19 summary for Monday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

The head of the WHO said that under current conditions more variants can still arise and that omicron is not necessarily the end of the story. He stated this to emphasize the need to reach the goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of the population of every country by the middle of the year.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is warning that conditions remain ideal for more coronavirus variants to emerge, saying it's dangerous to assume Omicron is the last one or that "we are in the endgame." Tedros also said the acute phase of the pandemic could end this year — if some key targets are met, including WHO's target to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population of every country by the middle of this year.

"It's true that we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future and that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases" to help prepare for future pandemics, he said. "But learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50,000 deaths a week from a preventable and treatable disease."

In Australia, the number of deaths rose (there were no numbers in the story) and may rise further when school returns next week.
In the Asia-Pacific region, COVID-related deaths surged in Australia, and authorities warned numbers could rise further when schools return from holidays next week.

In China, more control measures were introduced in Beijing to try to control the outbreak there prior to the Winter Olympics.
Beijing's city government introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of COVID-19, as China's capital continued to report new local cases of the virus less than two weeks before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games.

India reported more than 300,000 new cases for the fourth day in a row.
India reported over 300,000 new COVID-19 infections for the fourth straight day, even though the caseload over the last 24 hours was slightly lower than a day before, data released by the government on Sunday showed.

In Norway, mandatory quarantine for non-vaccinated travellers will end and be replaced by a daily test system.
Norway will end its system of mandatory quarantines for non-vaccinated travellers and close contacts of infected persons, replacing it instead with a daily test regime.

Russia reported a record 85,109 new cases and 655 deaths.
Russia on Monday reported a new record number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the past 24 hours as the Omicron variant of the virus spread across the country, the government coronavirus task force said. Daily new cases jumped to 65,109, from 63,205 a day earlier. The task force also reported 655 deaths.

South Africa reported 1,931 new cases and 114 deaths.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Sunday reported 1,931 new cases of COVID-19 and 114 additional deaths.

Israel will probably not offer a fourth jab to most people under 60.
In the Middle East, Israel's health minister said he did not think Israel will offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to most people after the government made it available to people over 60 and other high-risk groups.

Iran reported 7,691 new cases and 21 deaths.
Health officials in Iran on Monday said 21 people had died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. The country also reported 7,691 additional cases.

In the US, a judge in New York state ruled that the mandatory mask law was unconstitutional.
In the Americas, a New York judge struck down the state's mask mandate on Monday, ruling that it was unconstitutional and a violation of state law, according to the court decision.

In Mexico, president Obrador has recovered from his second COVID-19 infection and said he is in good health.
And in Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who recently recovered from his second COVID-19 infection, reassured Mexicans he was in good health following an overnight hospital stay.
Canada reported that in 2020 COVID-19 was responsible for the biggest drop in life expectancy since records began in 1921.
COVID-19 blamed for greatest drop in life expectancy in Canada since 1921

Life expectancy in 2020 fell 7 months to 81.7 years from 82.3 years the year before. For men it fell more than 8 months, and for women it fell nearly 5 months.

Deaths increased by 7.7 per cent compared to 2019. There were 16,151 deaths attributed to COVID-19, accounting for 5.3 per cent of all deaths in 2020. This made COVID-19 the third leading cause of death, although it may have contributed to other deaths as well. The number one cause of death was cancer (26.4 per cent) and the second was heart disease (17.5 per cent).

In some other countries such as Spain, Italy, and the US, life expectancy fell by as much as 1.5 years. In certain other countries such as Norway, Denmark, and Finland life expectancy remained stable or even increased.
The following video (see the bottom of the post) is from the same source as the previous one that I posted above on Saturday. While the previous one was about T cells, this one is about antibodies. The guest being interviewed here is one of the leading US experts on antibodies and works in their national research labs. When he "does his own research", he does it in a world leading scientific laboratory.

The video is 1 hour and 40 minutes, but that shouldn't be seen as daunting as it first appears as the real meat of the interview is at the beginning and about half way through they wander off the main topic and you can stop there without missing much.

If you want a detailed explanation of how antibodies and the antibody system actually work, this is the best resource that I have seen. Short answer, it's far more complex than anything that I've seen written in the stuff normally meant for public consumption, and even in this case he skims over a lot of detail.

Some parts of it are heavy going, but don't let that deter you. Even if you only understand half of what he says you'll probably still learn 10 times more than you knew before even if you thought you already more or less understood the subject on a basic level.

One particularly interesting point that he mentioned that I haven't seen anywhere else is that respiratory viruses are inherently difficult for antibodies to deal with because they don't typically have a phase where they pass through the blood where most of the antibodies are. The implications of this are that while vaccines against diseases which pass through the blood (he mentions a number, but I can't recall them) can be highly, highly, effective, vaccines that protect against viruses that affect the membranes of the respiratory system will be less effective.

The implications of this are that vaccines for COVID-19 are not likely to be as effective as the most effective vaccines that we have for certain other diseases. This does not take away from how effective the COVID-19 vaccines we do have are, but it does mean there will likely be an upper limit on their effectiveness.

Another point that he and the interviewers discussed was that regardless of the above, the science of viruses and vaccines is likely to make huge strides in the coming years. It has always been difficult to study viral diseases and immune responses in humans because of the limited number of subjects to study and the large number of complicating factors.

Now however we have had huge numbers of people from all across society all infected with the same virus at the same time and which has generated unprecedented amounts of data to be studied.

Even currently, a significant percentage (he quotes a number, but I can't recall it) of all the scientific papers published in the past year are on COVID-19. While quite a few of those papers, especially those published by people from outside the field, are rubbish, there are none the less a large number of very good and significant ones.

The important thing will be to not lose momentum in the coming years, but to take advantage of the rare (hopefully) opportunity to follow up on this data to gain a better understanding of the mindbogglingly complex immune system and develop better vaccines to treat a wide variety of diseases.

He also mentions the rather sobering point that viruses are one of the few things which can threaten to destroy most of humanity and civilization along with it. He gave the example that if HIV had been a respiratory virus, it would likely have wiped out 99 per cent of all humans on the planet, sparing only those with a rare genetic mutation.

Here is the COVID-19 summary for Tuesday.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday

In Canada, Quebec will start easing restrictions on the 31st of January.
Recalling that last week he said there was "light at the end of the tunnel," Quebec Premier François Legault said Tuesday that he now believes the province is coming out of that tunnel — and so will ease more pandemic restrictions as of Jan. 31.

Also in Canada, the national vaccination committee have upgraded their recommendation for the vaccination of 5 to 11 year olds from "may" to "should". They also recommended an interval between jabs of 4 to 8 weeks, but said that a longer interval will result in longer lasting protection. All provinces have been vaccinating this age group for some weeks now.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has upgraded its initial advice that kids aged five to 11 "may" get two doses of a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Now that more data is available on the safety and effectiveness of the first two doses of the vaccine, NACI says kids "should" get the shots.

It recommends a four- to eight-week interval between doses, but says a longer interval will likely lead to longer-lasting protection.

Chile will buy 2 million doses from Moderna.
Chile, which already boasts one of the world's highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, has agreed to purchase two million vaccine doses from Moderna, Chilean interim health minister Maria Teresa Valenzuela said.

Russia have reduced the isolation period for people who are contacts of positive cases from 14 days to 7. People who test positive themselves must still isolate for 14 days, with a mandatory test on day 10 or 11.
In Europe, Russian health authorities have shortened the required isolation period for those who come in contact with COVID-19 patients from 14 days to seven, a move that comes as an unprecedented surge of coronavirus infections, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, rips through the vast country.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced the shift Tuesday. It only changes the rules for those who had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, not for those with a confirmed infection. Those who test positive were still required to isolate for 14 days, with a mandatory test on day 10 or 11.

South Korea set a new record for cases, with over 8,000.
South Korea's daily count of new coronavirus cases topped 8,000 for the first time, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly despite the recent extension of strict physical-distancing rules to slow infection.

Japan are extending increased pandemic restrictions to more regions.
Japan is set to more than double the number of regions under enhanced coronavirus curbs on Tuesday, even as it sought to modify strategies to contend with the infectious Omicron variant that has fuelled record numbers of cases.

The Israeli vaccination committee recommended fourth jabs for all adults, 5 months after the third jab. Previous reports had expected this recommendation to be unlikely.
In the Middle East, an Israeli government advisory panel has recommended offering a fourth vaccine dose to all adults, on condition that at least five months have passed since they received the third or recovered from the illness.

Musician Neil Young said that if music streaming service Spotify didn't bin podcaster Joe Rogan then Young would pull his music from Spotify. Rogan has been spreading anti-vaccination misinformation on his regular podcast and Young doesn't want his music associated with the same company that provides a platform for this.
Neil Young demands Spotify remove his music over Joe Rogan COVID-19 misinformation
Late Monday, Canadian singer and songwriter Neil Young posted an open letter to his personal website, demanding that music streamer Spotify remove his music from its service.

In the since-deleted letter, Young explained he wants his music gone since Spotify also hosts a podcast by comedian and actor Joe Rogan. Young stated since that podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, has shared misleading statements about the COVID-19 pandemic, his music has no place on the streaming service.

"I am doing this because Spotify is spreading false information about vaccines, potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread about them," Young's letter reads.

"I want you to let Spotify know immediately today that I want all my music off their platform. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both."

Pfizer and BioNTech said they have started a new trial of a version of their vaccine updated for the omicron variant. Apparently the updated vaccine would be available no sooner than the end of March.
Pfizer-BioNTech launch trial of Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccine
Pfizer and BioNTech said on Tuesday they started a clinical trial to test a new version of their vaccine specifically designed to target the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which has eluded some of the protection provided by the original two-dose vaccine regimen.

In Canada a fringe political party is organizing a group of truck drivers to protest against American and Canadian rules which require truck drivers to be vaccinated in order to cross the border. The rule applies in both directions. They had organized a GoFundMe financing campaign, but GoFundMe have currently frozen their funds over questions of how the money will be accounted for. The usual anti-vaxxer extremist groups plan to meet the trucking protesters in Ottawa and use the opportunity for some sort of riots. It's hard to say at this time how it's going to turn out. The protest is scheduled for this coming weekend in Ottawa.
Organizer behind anti-vaccine mandate convoy says it won't tolerate extremists as online rhetoric heats up
Lich started the GoFundMe page on Jan. 14. Since then, a number of fringe groups and extremists have tried to latch onto the movement by promising to show up in Ottawa when the convoy arrives.

On the convoy's GoFundMe page, an organizer publicly disavows any connection with one person known to have extreme views. But the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page provides a link to a website with convoy information which lists that same disavowed person as a contact for the convoy.

Multiple messages sent to Lich seeking clarification were not returned.

Some individuals have said online they intend to travel to Ottawa for the protest and hope to see it turn into Canada's own version of the Jan. 6 riots.

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