Virus variants threaten to drag the pandemic Pushing aside all the gains from vaccinations and the optimism that there is an end to pandemic in sight, the virus is threatening to draw out longer and longer potentially for months, led by variants that are more contagious and some are even deadly. At the moment, most vaccines appear to be effective against the variants. But public health officials are deeply worried that future iterations of the virus may be more resistant to the immune response, requiring people to queue up for regular rounds of booster shots or even new vaccines. Already, the highly contagious variant first found in Britain and is wreaking havoc in continental Europe, is rising exponentially in the United States. Read hereBlood clots and the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine: is there a link? Even as the United Kingdom reported more blood clot cases in people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, the health regulator said that the benefits of the jab far outweigh the risks. However, many governments are still concerned about the jab. The main condition causing alarm is when blood forms clots in the veins that run from the brain, a potentially fatal complication. This has also been combined with patients having unusually low platelets, resulting in heavy bleeding. One hypothesis, put forward by a team of researchers in Germany, is that the AstraZeneca vaccine could be provoking an overexcited immune response in some people, causing them to generate antibodies that target blood platelets. Read here Brazil’s coronavirus nightmare: Bolsonaro is more isolated than ever As the pandemic inevitably worsens with Brazil piling out record-breaking numbers day after day, President Bolsonaro has become more isolated than ever since the pandemic began last year.
Recently, senior military leaders including the heads of army and navy have exited their positions, protesting the sacking of defence minister. This marks an end of a relationship with an institution Bolsonaro cultivated carefully for his use. The generals’ sudden exit comes amid a public health disaster, with record death tolls from coronavirus turning Brazil into the global epicentre of the pandemic. Read hereHow New Zealand's success made it a laboratory for the world New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where the virus is almost extinct. The country eliminated Covid 19 in the community by shutting its border in mid-March 2020, introducing compulsory quarantine for all returnees, and instituting a series of lockdowns to stamp out existing clusters. Even if a case slips through the border once in a while, it causes a small outbreak. But without community transmission in the background, New Zealand can drill down into individual cases with forensic detail. At the heart of New Zealand’s effort to track and understand Covid cases is sequencing the genome of every positive case that enters the country. Very few other places are even attempting that. Read here